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5 . 

Fve always 
thought a poet 
should think 
big, not small. 

A mass audience 
is created of an 
incredibly exquisite 
network of many 
little communities. 

I write for the little 
community where 
I start, and I have 
no idea where that 
message may travel 

— Eileen Myles 







'Mclty Sclioolhoiisc" 



2000 



Davn.1 Foley 



The Driskel Gallery • SilaS'Kenyon Gallery • Schoolhouse Fine Objects 

Two art galleries teatunng vantage and new photography, contemporary tine art and objects, 
with studios and rehearsal space tor visual and literary arts, music, dance and theater. 



494 COMMERCIAL STREET PROVINCETOWN, MASSACHUSETTS 02657 
508.487.4800 www.schoolhousecenter.com 




Digital Printmaking for Fine Art and Photography 



Reach a wider audience by offering limited edition prints of your art 

IRIS giclee prints on paper and canvas are becoming increasingly popular 
among art buyers, galleries and museums 






Mario Torroella, Frente al Mar, 48" x 36" 
Courtesy of gallerybershad 



Shown above: iris print on canvas 
Original: oil on canvas 



PICTEX is a digital printmaking studio that collaborates with 
artists and publishers to create or reproduce original artwork 
as beautiful limited edition prints 

Call for more information or to make an appointment for a consultation 

(gjctex 

1 260 Boylston Street Suite 203 Boston MA 02215 
tel 617.375.5801 fax 617.375.5803 



PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 I PAGE 1 





Berta Walker Gallery Exhibitions 




Varujan Boghosian, Cezanne's Orchard, 1999 
mixed media 



May 26 - June 19 
WRAPPING 
THE MILLENNIUM 
[OLD FAVORITES] 

An Exhibition of Classics 



by Gallery Artists & Friends 



; 




Paul Resika, Sleeping Gypsy, 1980-82, 61 x 77", oil on canvas 



June 23 - July 17 

NANCY CRAIG 

Myths & Dreams: Epic Paintings 




Nancy Craig, Renaissance Dream Drauhng: 

Dream art the White Horse, 60 x 38", oil on canvas 



Berta Walker Gallery Provincetown, MA 

“The Summer Art Capitol of America” 




Hans Hofmann, Plattes, 1941, 17 x 14" 
crayon and ink on paper 



July 21 - August 7 



-Boston Globe 



HANS HOFMANN 

The Summer Studio: Provincetown Drawings 

BRENDA HOROWITZ 



Color Contrasts: Cape View Paintings 




Brenda Horowitz, Nauset Magenta, 2000, 36 x 40" 
oil on canvas 



208 BRADFORD STREET, PROVINCETOWN, MA 02657 tel 508 487-6411 / fax 508 487-8794 



PAGE 2 1 PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 









August 11 - August 21 
“Selina in Hospital” 

SELINA TRIEFF Drawings 
and ROBERT HENRY Prints (and a book) 
A Tribute to Selina’s Indomitable Spirit 
After Her Hospitalization, 
including 2 one-person exhibitions: 
SELINA TRIEFF and ROBERT HENRY 
New Paintings 






Selina Trieff, Moving, 2000, 72 x 60" 
oil on canvas 



Gilbert Franklin 
Night Figure 
Height 13" 
Bronze 



Robert Henry, Lunatics, 2000, 40 x 30" 
oil on canvas 



August 25 - September 4 
NANCY WHORF 
Personal Provincetown: 
Land and Sea 

GILBERT FRANKLIN 

Dancers & Devas: 

Recent Bronze Sculpture 

CARMEN CICERO 

Expressionist Watercolors 



Nancy Whorf, The Long Way Home, 2000, 48 x 72", oil on panel 



September 8 - September 24 
ANNE MacADAM 
The Land: Light and Spirit 
New Paintings 

MARTHA DUNIGAN 

Return of the Native: 

Mixed Media Sculpture 



Anne MacAdam, Mustard Seed, 1998, 16 x 25", Oil on canvas 



208 BRADFORD STREET, PROVINCETOWN, MA 02657 tel 508 487-6411 / fax 508 487-8794 



provincetown arts 2000 1 PAGE 3 



Berta Walker Gallery Exhibitions 2000 








Lawrence/Feuer/LaMontagn 

531 West 26^^^ Street, 4*^ Floor 
New York, New York 10001 
t (212) 631-7700 f (212) 631-7705 
If Igallery @ yahoo.com Tue-Sat 1 1 -6 
Open by appointment in July and August 

Summer: 

Selections curated by 

Dean Daderko 

9/7/00 to 10/7/00 

Ayae Takahashi 

10/12/00 to 11/12/00 

Momus 




DNA 6ALLERY 

JUNE 16 TO JULY 5 
CALLERY ARTISTS FEATURINC 
JAY CRITCHLEY AND TONY VEVERS 

JULY 7 TO AUCUST 2 

PETER HUTCHINSON, KAHN/SELESNICK 
JOEL MEYEROWITZ AND MARY BEHRENS 

AUCUST 4 TO AUCUST SO 
CRECORY AMENOFF, ANNA POOR 
DANIEL RANALLI AND TABITHA VEVERS 

SEPTEMBER 1 TO OCTOBER 1 
FRANCIE RANDOLPH, JANICE REDMAN 
BOB BAILEY AND HIROYUKI HAMADA 

11-6 DAILY AND BY APPOINTMENT 
288 BRADFORD ST. PROVINCETOWN, MA 02657 
TEL: 508-487-7700, FAX: 508-487-7705 
DNAART@CAPECOD.NET 
WWW.DNACALLERY.COM 




image; Ayae Takahashi 



PAGE 4 I PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 





COVE GALLERY 



15 Commercial Street, Wellfleet, MA 02667 • 508-349-2530 



Untitled, 1954 26" x 20 



oil on canvas 



John Grillo 



Abstract Works 1946 -2000 
Opening Reception: 
July 22, 2000 6-8 pm 



Also representing the following artists: 

Leonard Baskin • Anne Bedrick • Meg Black • Tomie dePaola • Dan Gibbons • Joan Gitlow 
Carla Golembe • Karla Gudeon • Larry Horowitz • Barry Moser • Satoko • Judith Shahn 
Christoph Spath • Simms Taback • Richard Weinstein • Mary Ann Wenniger 



Also view John Grille’s paintings at Cafe Heaven, Provincetown 
web: www.covegallery.com email: art@covegallery.com 




Actively Buying and Selling the Best of 
Provincetown Prints & Paintings 




BLANCHE LAZZELL 



Provincetown. 1918/19 



Bnkkcr Gallorv icprescnls the lltiesl of botli old atid recent Provincetown art for .sale in every price range. Our eunent inven- 
tory iticlndes works hy: .Allen. Baker. Behnken. Bieknell. Blum. Brown. Browne, Cabral, Car.son, Cohen, Davis, Ditaechio, 
Du Toil, lulel, Forsherg, Freed. Freedman. Fried, Gibbs, Gieberieh, deGroot, Hawthorne. Hondius, Hughes, Knaths, Landis, 
La//ell. L'Faigle. Le\itie. Lindenmuth, Littlelleld. Loeb, Lund. Maxim. Mazur, Moffett. Orlowsky, Patterson, Raynor, Ried, 
Simoti. Stnith, Stoughttrti. Vevers, Villard, Warthen, Webb, Whorf, Woeltle, Wyman, Yater, and Young among others. 



BARKER 

GALLERY 



236 NEWBURY STREET 
BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS 02116 
TELEPHONE 617-262-8020 • FACSIMILE 61 7-262-801 9 



PAGE 6 ! PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 



Photo James Zimmerman 







Loretta Feeney 



Oil on Canvas, ' x aO" 



Tugboats on the Hudson 



Representing 

Sam Barber • Betsy Bennett • Sheila Benzer • Jose Buscaglia • William R. Davis 
Donald Demers • Loretta Feeney • Donny Finley • Russell Gordon • James Harrington 
Thomas B. Higham • Robert Douglas Hunter • Patrick Kitson • Joseph McGurl 
Mark Meunier • Ernest Montenegro • Robert E. Moore • Elizabeth Mumford 
Pamela Pindell • Sergio Roffo • Curtis Rosser • Dennis Sheehan • Aleta Steward 
Don Stone, na • George Van Hook • Robert Vickrey, na • Sam Vokey 
Anthony Watkins • Michael Whelan • Richard Whitney 



I 




TREE 'S PLACE 

GALLERY 



Route 6 A • PO Box 666 • Orleans, MA 026S3 • S08-2SS-1330 • Toll Free 888-2SS-1 330 
email trees@pobox com • internet ww\v treesplace com 






One of America’s Finest Contemporary Galleries 



PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 I PAGE 7 




Caroline Thomson, Self Portrait (Heat 2000), Oil on Linen, 30x40 inches 



HEADS 



August 18 August 31 

Jack Pierson 
Caroline Thomson 



David Armstrong 
Susanna Coffey 



Bangs Street Gallery 

432 Commercial St, Provincetown, MA 02657 Tel, 508-487-0743 Fax: 508-349-7922 www,BangstreetGallery,Com E-Mail: Bangst@tiac,net 



PAGE 8 I PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 



Passions Gallery 





Ojcnly^ Sckednlc ZOOO 

All our openings are on Friday nights and open 
to the pubiic at 6:30pm, unless otherwise noted. 
Each Individual artist's show begins with a 
Collector's Only Party at 5:00pm. 



July 14 Judy Francesconi 

July 21 Eric Kluin 

July 28 Noel 

August 4 Paula Vazquez 

August 1 1 Colette Hebert 



August 18 Chawky Frenn 
August 25 Bernard Stanley Hoyes 
September 1 Raymond Wiger 
October 13 Women's Week Goddess Show 




new mpUckkIkm clkcI 



Passions Gallery 336 Commercial Street, #5 Provincetown, MA 02657 800.211.8915 / 508.487.5740 w\AAA/.passionsgallery.com 



PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 I PAGE 9 







PAGE 10 I PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 



JULIE HELLER GALLERY PROVINCETOWN ART 




SOL WILSON 



SOL WILSON 

(1896-1974) ESTATE REPRESENTATION 
An icon among Provincetown artists, Wilson captured 
the flavor of Provincetown life in the 1940s, ’50s, and ’60s. 

A gallery dedicated to the artists who established Provincetown as an 
important art colony and to those who continue to carry on the tradition: 
Milton Avery, La Force Bailey*, Douglas Brown*, George Elmer Browne, 
Oliver Chaffee, Nanno de Groot*, Edwin Dickinson, Maurice Freedman*, 
Charles Heinz, Henry Hensche, Hans Hofmann, Karl Knaths, Betty 
Lane*, Blanche Lazzell, Clare Leighton, William and Lucy L’Engle, Leo 
Manso*, Irving Marantz*, Ethel Mars, Dimitry Merinoff*, Ross Moffett, 
Robert Motherwell, B.J.O. Nordfeldt, Patricia Phillips*, Alvin Ross, Agnes 
Weinrich, Sol Wilson*, William and Marguerite Zoarch, and others. New 
work by: Bill Behnken, Rob Brooks, Heather Bruce, David Eddy, Mary 
Giammarino, Brian Goblick, David Halliday, Cherie Mittenthal, Nick 
Patten, Christie Scheele, and Patrick Webb. 

‘Estate Representation 



www.juliehellergallery.com 



2 Gosnold Street • Provincetown, MA 02657 (Across from Adams Pharmacy, Town Landing on the Beach) • (508) 487-2169 



T J WA 
LTON 
GALL 
E R Y 

T J WALTON GALLERY 

173 Commercial Street 
Provincetown MA 02657 
tel/ fax 508 487 0170 



2000 SUMMER SEASON 

Paul Bowen 
Marty Epp 
M.P. Landis 
Jim Manning 
Sacha Richter 
TJ Walton 



1 



PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 I PAGE 1 1 




SUMMER LIGHT 




I\ TUI l-ARI Y I U;il 1" oil onuinvas, 25 \ 56 



FAY SHUTZER 

AUGUST 5-18 
0PI-;N1NG Rl-CEFHON 
SAT AUGUST 5 
6 - 8 PM 



25 COMMTRCIAI, STRi:i: T 
W LLLl-UT-: T, MA 02667 
508-540-4451 




O i l IRR LOCATIONS: 

8 CO\'L ROAD ORI.LANS, *\L\ 0265 5 
508-247-9172 



5 WLST MAIN STRLET 
WlTTl-TLET, ALA 02667 
508-549-7959 




Artists: 



George Elmer Browne 
Arthur Cohen 



Fredrick Hemley 
John W. Gregory 
William Maynard 
Frank Milby 



Alice Palmer 



Romanos Rizk 



John R. Smith 






Stephen Toomey 
George Yater 
John Mulcahy 



Visit us at: www.egaiieryprovincetown.com 



PALI ;2 PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 







Kiley Court Gallery 




Michael Davis Robert Cardinal Joan Cobb Marsh 

“House at Beach Point” “Pond Village” “House on Commercial Street” 

o/c 8x10 o/c 30x50 o/c 20 x 16 



Representing: Robert Cardinal, James Davis, Michael Davis, Ann Hartley, 
Francine Huot, Steve Kennedy, Stephen Larese, Joan Cobb Marsh, Frank Milby, 
Susan Tilton Pecora, Judith Ragusa, Mary Dean Sesti, Ruth Stecher, Carol Westcott. 

445 Commercial Street • Provincetown, MA 02657 • (508) 487-4496 




aLittle different 
aLot of art 
aHead... 

a contemporary art house 



►►aHead 

336 Commercial Street #2 Provincetown 508.487.7773 



PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 I PAGE 13 





ARMANI • CALVIN • ANNE KLEIN • GIRL STAR • LEILANI 



• 8.5 QUAKE • ROXY • QUIKSILVER • HURLEY • O’NEILL • BILLABONG • RAISINS • 



WE’VE GOT IT ALL! 









286 Commercial Street, Provincetown • 508 • 487 • 2406 

“The Hottest Brands & Biggest Selection of Lifestyle 
Apparel, Footwear, Sunglasses, Watches and Accessories on the Cape.” 



Coconuts 



Sunglasses, Accessories and a lot more... ^ 



294 Commercial Street 
Provincetown • 508 • 487 • 2406 






Mmubothq 

Sui^fasses and Accessories^ 

230 Commercial Street 
Provincetown • 508 • 487 • 1 005 



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oo 



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c 

73 



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73 

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MAUI JIM • REVO • RAY BAN • DKNY • ESPRIT • GUESS • TIMBERLAND • SMITH • KILLER LOOP • 




shrink wrap • acid-free framing 
dry mounting * hinging • gaiier\ frames 
fine art graphics*, limited ediiionSy and oils 
speedy framing for artists who need 
things fast for their show 
* stock a large selection of suede, 

^ . linen, and standard 4 and S ply mats 
■3jl * canvas stretching * computerized hilling 

I Ijooted on Route 6 in N. Trum^ behind 
^ Seamen^s Bank^ next to Folice.<'Fire Station 

508-48r-2r05 



Pelmpfk^, Erie, Ohoon, 

^ Hooper, Curier^IveX Klimt O'Keefe, 

tT? AUxfieiij Pettish ^ Loc:^! artists 



PAGE 14 : PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 




Beachfront 



Hilltop Getaway n 
with panoramic water views. 
Heated pool, luxurious rooms. 
Secluded yet convenient to town 



Private beach, lush 
landscaping, pool and view of our historic 
town. Large, immaculate rooms with that 
traditional Cape Cod feehng. 

Best Western Tides 
Beachfront 

837 Commercial Street, Provincetown, MA 
(508) 487-1045 



Best Western Chateau 
Motor Inn 

105 Bradford Street West, Provincetown, MA 
(508) 487-1286 






Smoke-free for your health and enjoyment 
For toll-free reservations, call 1(800)528-1234. http://www.bwprovincetown.com 








PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 - 






We could teli you 
it 0 quite o imply the 
fined t redort on Cape Cod 
But ioe wouldn f 
want to be guilty of 
underdtatement. 



^WEQUASSETT INN 

R E s o R r AND Golf C l u b 

On PL'ii.uint Bay, Chatham, Cape CW — ( h'OO) 22^-712^ 





8 

■£ !" >B 



Design and construction of outstanding homes, commercial buildings and institutions like the Cape Museum of Fine Arts, 



PAGE PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 



Photography by Patrick Wiseman 









Awards for Provincetown Arts 



FOR GENEROUS CONTRIBUTIONS 
TO PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000, 
WE WISH TO THANK ... 



Leonard Alberts, MD 
Jason Aleshire 

Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company 
Anonymous 

Jean Barrell & Martha Rhodes 
Dr. Beatrice H. Barrett 
Rose Basile 
Arthur Berger 

Marilyn & Barnett B. Berliner 
Best Western Inns Provincetown 
K. Bird 

Sarah Blake & Josh Weiner 
Rebecca Blunk & Marcie Hershman 
Mrs. Leonard Bocour 
Stephen Borkowski & Wilfrid 
J. Michaud, Jr. 

Lee E. Briccetti 
Charlene Bry 

Barbara & Sidney Cheresh 

Joan Lebold Cohen 

Continental Courier 

Ellyn & Saul Dennison 

Ann D'Ercole 

Timothy Dyk 

Wendy Everett 

Patrick Falco 

Paul J. Folkman 

Robert J. Freedman 

In loving memory of Chaim Gross 

Dimitri Hadzi 

Nancy Hall-Duncan 

Robert Henry & Selina Trieff 

Tony Jackett 

Edward Jacobson 

Janice Jay 

Jim Krantz 

Sandra Kraskin 

Stanley Kunitz 

Joseph T. Langland 

Harriet & Dirk Larsen 

Anne-Marie Levine 

Michael Liese 

Sabra Loomis 

Adlin Loud 

Norman & Norris Mailer 

Massachusetts Cultural Council 

Richard McCann 

Mary McCarthy Literary Trust 

James & Stephania McClennen 

Maureen McCoy 

Rich & Debbie McKown 



1998 

1996 

1995 

1994 

1994 

1994 

1993 

1993 

1993 

1992 

1991 

1991 

1989 

1988 

1986-99 



Best American Movie Writing 

American Literary Magazine Awards: Special Mention for Design in 1 995 
Pushcart Prize XX: Best of the Small Presses 
American Literary Magazine Awards: First Place for Editorial Content 
Editor's Choice IV: Essays from the U.S. Small Press 1978-92 
Notable Essays of 1 993 

American Literary Magazine Awards: First Place for Editorial Content 
Best American Poetry 

Pushcart Prize XVIII: Best of the Small Presses 

American Literary Magazine Awards: First Place for Editorial Content & Design 

Best American Poetry 

Notable Essays of 1 990 

Print Certificate of Design Excellence 

Best American Essays 

Over 1 00 Pushcart Nominations for Fiction, Non-fiction, and Poetry 



Karen Miller 

Mary L. Moore 

Jeannie Motherwell 

Renate Ponsold Motherwell 

Paul A. Murphy 

Joe Novak 

April J. Paul 

Anna Poor 

Provincetown Portuguese Bakery 
Richard G. Rand 
Stephen Rand, MD 
Necee Regis 
Alison Rossiter 
David Rothman 
Nancy Rubens 
Frank D. Schaefer 
Judith Schteingart 
Robert Schemior 
Don Scott 
Serenade Florist 
Pat & Dick Siewert 
Tom Sleigh 
Michael Sperber, MD 
Paula Sperry, Chiropractor 
Janice & Robert Stone 
Stop & Shop Corporation 
Town of Provincetown 
Tourism Fund 
Salvador R. Vasques III 
Rosanna Vestuti 
M.W. Vokey 
Sally Walker 

Al & Barbara Wasserman 

Nancy & Dwight Webb 

William & Bette Weed 

Robin S. Weiss & Allan H. Wimer 

Mary Wolridge 

Jane M. Woolway 

Richard & Judith Wurtman 

X-tra Corporation 



Joan Washburn 
Gallery 

Joan T. Washburn 
20 West 57th Street 
New York, N.Y. 10019 
Telephone: (212) 397-6780 
Fax: (212) 397-4853 




JUNE KELLY 
GALLERY 

591 Broadway 
New York, NPi 10012 

212/226-I66ii 



PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 i PA(, 












CONTENTS 2000 




Eileen Myles, May 2000 

Jack Pierson 



Upfront 1 


20 


Buzz 




23 


Letter from the Editor 


Jennifer Liese 


Sky's the Limit 


24 


Never Real, Always True: An Interview with Eileen Myles 


Frances Richard 


30 


To Go Home 


Eileen Myles 


31 


from Skies 


Eileen Myles 


36 


Sky’s the Limit 


Eileen Myles et al 


Odysseys 


40 


Crowbar 


Nick Flynn 


44 


Gone Hollywood: 

A Conversation with Dini Lamot, aka Musty Chiffon 


Karen Finley 


46 


Into the Eye with Sebastian Junger 


Ivy Meeropol 


50 


Memoirs of the Provincetown Review, 1958-1968 


Bill Ward 

Harriet Sohmers Zwerling 


52 


Are We Going to Fez? — Talking Paul Bowles with Cherie Nutting 


Stephen Aiken 


55 


?ost-Chelsea Girls 


Caroune Crumpacker 


56 


Eye Spy Miami 


Necee Regis 


66 


Utopian Things Can Happen: 

A Conversation with Maria Burks about the Highlands Center 


Jennifer Liese 


69 


Ghost Music in the Dunes 


Robert Finch 


70 


“Walking,” Cape Cod, and Henry David Thoreau 


Vincent J. Cleary 


78 


Art, Friendship, and Ping-Pong 


Mary Behrens 


79 


Shame 


Melanie Braverman 


80 


With No Land in Sight 


Peter Alson 


82 


Great Moments in Neutrino History 


Betsy Terrell 


84 


With Nothing but Gratitude 


Pam Houston 


88 


Eyeballing the Alien: The Mythic Quest of Tim McCarthy 


Christopher Busa 


91 


What to Make with Rotten Eggs (Since Iceland Grows No Lemons) 


Molly Hardison 


92 


Flying with Horses 


Karin Cook 


Projects 


96 


Eternal Delight: Favorite Lines of Poetry by 
Stanley Kunitz Chosen by His Friends 


EDITED BY JaSON ShINDER 


100 


P’town Proud 


Mischa Richter 


104 


Your Idea Is Very Much a Fragment: A Collaboration 
by 2000 FAWC Fellows 


CURATED BY RaCHEL WhITE 


Poetry 


108 


Provincetown Is the Center of the Universe 


Rebecca Wolff 


108-115 


' Rae Armantrout, Michael Burkard, Nicholas Fillmore, Kathe Izzo, 
Paulette Beete, J.E. Wei, Fanny Howe, Robert Strong, Chelsey Minnis, 




Ronaldo V. Wilson, Faith Shearin, Keith Althaus, Michael Craig, 
Clark Coolidge, Jason Shinder, Sandy Brown, Rodney Phillips 




Fiction 


120 


ril Hold You Up 


Ruth Hamel 


122 


Falcon 


Benjamin Taylor 


124 


Justice 


Katherine Toy Miller 


127 


Cherrji^^ 


Norris Church Mailer 




MICHAEL CARROLL, UNTITLED, 2000 

















PROVINCETOWN 



Art 






130 


Michael Mazur: Printer, Painter, Collaborator 


William Corbett 


132 


What I Saw at the Whitney 


Ann Wilson Lloyd 


134 


The Aerial Perspective of Tony Vevers 


Christopher Busa 


136 


Carmen Cicero: “That Existential Stare” 


Christopher Busa 


138 


The Cape as Installation 


John Slyce 


140 


Wry and Pumpernickel: The Antic Photo Shop of Kahn/Selesnick 


Fred Bernstein 


141 


Linda Touby: Abstract Expression without the Angst 


Eleanor Kennelly 


142 


Entering Switch at Gagosian 


Paul Bowen 


143 


Hiroyuki Hamada: Nature’s Wildcard 


Dahlia Elsayed 


144 


The Earth, Ocean, and Heavens of Linda Ohlson Graham 


Nicola Francis-Burnell 


145 


Close Encounters with AJ Wasserman 


Christopher Busa 


146 


Ellen GaOagher — Read: Slippage 


Ronaldo V. Wilson 


Books 




150 


Evidence: The Art of Candy Jemigan 
edited by Laurie Dolidtiii 
Christina Schlesinger 




151 


Bewitched Playground 
by David Rivard 
Robert Strong 




152 


Seeing Through Places: Reflections on Geography and Identity 
by Mary Gordon 
Sar! Wilson 




154 


Six Figures 

by Fred G. Leebron 
Sheila P. Donohue 




155 


Lawnboy 

by Paul Lisicky 
Dorothy Antczak 




156 


Some Ether 
by Nick Flynn 
Tony Hoagland 




157 


The Kingdom of the Subjunctive 
by Suzanne Wise 
Euzabeth Fodaski 




158 


Disgrace 

by JM. Goetzee 
Max Winter 




159 


Equal Love 

by Peter Ho Davies 
Fred G. Leebron 




160 


Provincetown Dogs 
by Susan Baker 
Margaret Ctlrroll-Bergman 




160 


As Nature Made Him: The Boy Who Was Raised as a Girl 
by John Golapinto 

Chick for a Day: What Would You Do If You Were One? 
edited by Fiona Giles 
Barbara Spindel 




Comm'l St. 





162 

164 

166 

168 

170 

172 

173 
173 



Ryan Landry: A Thinking Drag Man 
for the Thinking Drag Fan 
The Aural Edges of John Thomas 
Sea Shanties and Squid: A Conversation with Zoe Lewis 
You Don’t Have to Be Amazing 
Putting the Sizzle in the Steak: A Conversation 
with Alix Ritchie about Campus Provincetown 
Splendor in Suspense: The New Whalers’ Wharf 
Film Festivals and Film-making “On the Edge” 

A Fearful Epidemic 



Margaret Bergman 
David Kopp 
Louise Rafkin 
Paulette Beete 

Hunter O’Hanian 
Laura V. Scheel 
Blythe Frank 

Rebecca Motherwell Swanson 



A publication of Provincetown Arts Press, Inc., 
a non-profit press for artists and poets 

FOUNDERS PUBLISHER 
Christopher Busa 



EDITOR 
Jennifer Liese 

FICTION EDITOR 
Ivy Meeropol 

POETRY EDITOR 
Rebecca Wolff 

PROOEREADER 
Joan W. Barron 



CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER 
Margaret Carroll-Bergman 

DESIGN 

Ewa Nogiec, ENS Graphics 

AD PRODUCTION 
Shank Painter Co. Inc. 



BOARD OE DIRECTORS 

Margaret Carroll-Bergman Christopher Busa 



Alexandra Cromwell 
Anne-Marie Levine 
Mary Maxwell 
Stephania McClennen 

BOARD OF ADVISORS 
Mary Abell 
Paul Bowen 
Karen Finley 
Seymour Keller 
Fred Leebron 
Gail Mazur 
Susan Mitchell 
Mira Schor 



David Davis 
Jennifer Liese 
James McClennen 
Jason Shinder 

Charles Bergman 
Donald Burnham, Esq. 
Bill Jensen 
Stanley Kunitz 
Ann Wilson Lloyd 
Richard McCann 
Sarah Rapson 
John Skoyles 



Published annually in mid-summer since 1985, Provincetown Arts 
focuses broadly on artists, performers, and writers who inhabit 
or visit the tip of Cape Cod, and seeks to stimulate creative activity 
and enhance public awareness of the cultural life of the nation's 
oldest continuous art colony Drawing upon a century-long 
tradition rich in art, theater, and writing, Provincetown Arts 
publishes essays, fiction, inten/iews, journals, performance pieces, 
poetry, profiles, reporting, reviews, and visual features, with a 
view toward demonstrating that a community of artists, 
functioning outside the urban centers, is a utopian dream with 
an ongoing vitality. 



© 2000 by Provincetown Arts, Inc. 

All rights resen/ed. Reproduction in whole or in part expressly 
forbidden without permission from the publisher. 

Most of Provincetown Arts is freelance written Unsolicited 
manuscripts are welcome and will be considered between 
October and January. Enclose SASE for writer's guidelines. The 
best guide for content and length is a study of past issues. 

Member: Council of Literary Magazines and Presses 



Address all correspondence to: 

Provincetown Arts 

650 Commercial Street, Provincetown, MA 02657 
Tel: (508) 487-3167 • Fax: (508) 487-3559 

Subscriptions are $10 per annual issue 

Back issues available • Order form on page 175 

New advertisers: please request media kit 



Provincetown Arts is indexed in the American Humanities inde:* 

PRINTED IN USA 

NATIONAL AND CANADA DISTRIBUTION 
Ingram Periodicals, Nashville, TN 



ISSN 1053-5012 
ISBN: 0-944854-41-9 



PROVING ETOWN ARTS 2000 I PAl 








Provincetown Arts Press held its first-ever NYC benefit 
last fall at the quintessential SoHo loft of artist Catherine 
Mosley. The party, which drew hundreds of Provincetown 
friends, celebrated the release of three new Poets Series 
trade editions — books by Keith Althaus. Anne-Mane Levine, 
and Martha Rhodes that had gone out of pnnt. Levine and 
Rhodes gave readings, jazz singer Cat Henry performed with 
her trio, and Necee Regis provided delectable comestibles. 
PAP founder Christopher Busa, speaking from an elevated 
balcony, surveyed the crowd below and recalled that many 
years ago he had carried the tiles beneath everyone's feet 
up the building's five flights of stairs. He reported that a 
literary journal's average lifespan is seven years and likened 
the haul to that of keeping Pm'iiuelowii Arts alive and kick- 
ing for twice that. 




Albert Merola Gallery an- 
nounces the representation of Greg 
Wamke. a photographer from Ver- 
mont, who will join long-time gal- 
ler\' artists Donna Flax. Helen 
Miranda Wilson, Duane Slick, 
James Balia, and Richard Baker 
with solo shows this season. On 
view throughout the summer will 
be works by gallery artists, includ- 
ing Michael Mazur, whose MFA retrospective (reviewed in 
this issue) ran concurrently with shows in New York, Bos- 
ton, and Verona, Italy, and John Waters, whose new film is 
punningly titled, Cecil B. Daucntcd. More news: works by 
Lester Johnson and Peter Busa were recently acquired by 
the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and the Museum of Fine 
Arts in Houston, respectively. 






GREG WARNKE, PEPS! 
1999-2000 



B.ings Street Gallery, banging on the door of the big time, 
was characterized by Art Basel as a “risk-taking gallerv 
showing art previously ignored." The gallery's candidate 
for 2001 is John Calhoun. In .Vugust. "Heads" features new 
portraits bv David Amistrong. .Susanna Coffey. Jack Pierson, 
and Caroline Thomson. 



Before sitting down to a seder in the Brooklyn studio of 
painter Jonathan Blum, a guest pulled out a copy of the 
.•\pril 20th issue of the BiWiicr (now The Banner ami The 
Atlvoeiite). waving its headline — "Banner bu\'s .Advocate 
in Historic Merger" — in front of fonner and summer Prov- 
incetown residents. Lyes popped and gasps sounded like 
thunder, as displaced townies reckoned with the news. In- 
side the pages. AdwcMc publisher and editor Duane Steele 
bade a bittersweet farewell, declaring to his readers. “1 want 
you to knov\' tliat 1 did it all for you . . . despite the pain you 
often inflicted on me, and 1 on )'ou. 1 loved )'ou dearly. 1 always 
wall." It was clear diat Steele was tired and ready to move on. 
Passover's stoiy is oft applied to modern-day enslavements and 
emancipations, and diough Steele's twenw-five years at the 
. LAiHii/e ve-eren't quite fort\' years wandering in the desert, his 
sudden freedom suggested some comparison. 

The Banner staff won five awards at this year's New 
England Press Association gathering. Most notable in these 
pages is Features Editor Sue Harrison taking first place in 
Arts and Entertainment reporting. We would like to con- 
gratulate .Sue and to thank her for providing consistently 
astute and generous writing on local arts of all sorts. 

Berta Walker Gallery has become the official New 
England representative of the Hans Hofmann Estate. Her 
season will feature the artist's dear and lively “Provincetown 
Drawings." as well as shows by Robert Henry. Selina Trieff. 
Nancy Whorf. and others. An exhibition of paintings by 
Nancy Craig promises to be a revelation. Craig’s paintings 
teem with Greek mythological figures, chubby cherubs, 
wnthing nudes, and rearing horses, recalling Renaissance 



masterpieces. A student of Edwin 
Dickinson and Hofmann, Craig 
has lived in Tmro for thirty years, 
yet this will be her first local show. 
The scale of her paintings — so co- 
lossal that Walker reconfigured 
her space specifically to oblige — 
has been daunting in the past. 
Walker said she was reminded of 
Craig's chimerical figures during 
winter trips to Turkey, Greece, 
and Eg^'pt. She was struck by the “magical antiquity" of 
Istanbul, where "all the mosques sing to each other.” In 
Egypt, she visited the temple of Hathor, goddess of fertility, 
love, art. dance, and music, and sat at the paws of the 
Sphinx. Of course a great collector couldn’t come home 
empt)’-handed — Walker returned with Turkish carpets, a 
tiny black stone carving found at the Pyramids, and an ap- 
preciative reflection: "The soil and light of Egypt are unique 
in the world — just like here. It felt like home.” 

Laurel Louise Daigle Wise 
Brooke arrived in Provincetown in 
1973 on a rebuilt lobster boat and 
died here in the company of many 
loving friends on February 6, 2000, 
in the early morning hours the 
Tibetan New Year, A well-known 
percussionist, Brooke played over 
the years with Provincetown 
Women Dmmmers, Wild Women of All Sexes, and Weaving 
the Matrix. Fellow musician John Thomas recalled Brooke's 
successful challenge of Provincetown 's unconstitutional 
prohibition of street performance in 1994, and advised, 
"When you enjoy a perfomrer on our streets, thank Laurel.” 
He also reflected. "Each life has a main theme. Laurel’s was 
community. A few days before her mastectomy in 1988, 
Laurel stood before hundreds of us at the Celebration of Life 
Concert and proclaimed, ‘1 am so full of your love and your 
support that 1 basically have no pain. 1 feel alive and well 
and strong and 1 attnbute it to you . . . this is a town of love. 
Celebrate your life every day!’" 





NANCY CRAIG, RAPE 
OF THE DAUGHTERS 
OF RUBENS # ; 



Cameo Appearances, a gallery and antiques shop once 
housed in the East Village, has moved to lower Chelsea 
(otherwise known as the Meatpacking Distnet). The new 
gallery space, run by Lynne Burns and Herb Atkins, will 
feature Provincetown artists Stephen Aiken, Susan Baker, 
Arthur Cohen. William Evaul, Lisbetli Fimiin, Robert Henry, 
Nomia Holt, Jackson Lambert, Tom O'Connell, Jim Rann, 
Selina Trieff. and Bnan Wendler. A grand gala in September 
will open tlie first exJtibition, “Provincetown Comes to NYC." 




TJie Cape Museum of Fine Arts 

proudly presents “Many Seasons,” 
an exhibition of Herman Maril’s 
paintings of the sporting life — 
baseball, football, and lacrosse 
games, bowling, even kite-flying, 
rendered in wide washes of quiet 
color. For tastes more brazen, don't 
miss the follow-up “Surrealism in 
America,” a nationally touring ex- 
hibition of works from the esti- 
mable collection of Penny and 
Elton Yasuna. The CMFA's “Tuesdays with the Muse Se- 
ries” is a bimonthly foray into thought-provoking terrain, 
with topics ranging from “Local Art Agendas” to “Medita- 
tions on the Art of Rowing” to “Hmmm . . . You Mean tiuu's 
Art?” This last was a spring panel discussion and slide show 
led by critic and curator Ann Wilson Lloyd and featuring 
relatively radical artists Jay Critchley and Portia Munson. A 
good-sized crowd was warmly receptive, excepting however 



HERMAN MARIE, BIG 
CATCH, 1972 



tt\'o elderly ladies who punctuated each switch of the slides 
with grumbles of “Yuck,” “Oh dear,” and “This is insane!” 

Longing for a little spirituality to balance the debauchery of 
Provincetown night life? Visit the newly constructed 
Church of the Transfiguration in Orleans. Designed by 
Boston architect William Rawn, the Church, inspired by 
Ist-century architectural style, features elaborate stone 
relief, stained glass, and mosaic, along with a “conch-shaped 
apse which encircles the altar.” lire most impressive external 
detail may be its fifteen-foot cast-bronze doors, fabricated 
by New York and Provincetown sculptor Romolo Del Deo, 
The newsletter of the ecumenical Community of Jesus, 
which will worship inside these doors, describes their 
imagery as portraying “the still innocent Adam and Eve, 
fresh from the moment of creation, beside the flourishing 
Tree of Life," and assures that despite weighing in at 4,000 
pounds, the doors “have been carefully engineered to open 
easily.” Thank God. 



Ken Kinkor, Whydah Museum Di- 
rector, sent the following update: 
“Last February, undersea explorer 
Barry Clifford led a team of ar- 
chaeologists and divers over 
13,000 miles to the tiny isle of Ste. 
Marie off the north-east coast of 
Madagascar. Their goal? Exploring 
the 30 1 -year-old wreck of The Ad- 
vciiliirc Galley, flagship of the famed pirate Captain Kidd. 
With a combination of old-fashioned historical detective 
work and new-fangled satellite imagery, the team found the 
wreck on the first day of diving. Clifford and crew are prepar- 
ing for anodier expedition to take further archeological mea- 
surements and recover key diagnostic artifacts for eventual 
reconstruction. If things go well, tliere’s a chance that Expedi- 
tion U' 7n V lah Sea Lab and Learning Center on Macmillan Wharf 
will be displaying artifacts from The Ailvaiuirc Galley." 

The Monday night Coffeehouse at the Mews got an ex- 
tra dose of caffeine when poet and artist Melanie Bravemian 
hosted for the month of January. Braverman amused with 
her wry combination of spokesmodel elegance and Catskills 
comedienne. Performers included a be-wigged mystery 
guest who played “City,” a famous performance artist who 
spent a $ 100,000 grant on giving Faberge eggs to the poor. 
Former members of the band Space Pussy reunited, a 
woman passed out mermaid gingerbread cookies made in 
an Easy-Bake Oven, Miss Pat screened a psychedelic clip 
from a video on drag kings, and Braverman herself read a 
boundlessly rousing poem that began, “Let’s talk about sex,” 
and continued, “you see/that man walking just/ahead of 
you, the woman/whose arms are swinging at, you/swear, 
the same/cadence as your own, my god, she/has an amaz- 
ing ass, it's round or/small, whatever/kind of ass you like 
that's/it, moving in front/of you like a beacon, like/an of- 
fering.” Sometimes January got pretty hot. 

Jay Critchley brought a satirical take on masculinity and 
gender roles to Harvard this year as their 1999-2000 
Marshall Cogan Visiting Artist. A semester of improvisa- 
tions with university students culminated in an extrava- 
ganza called “The Lympdick Diatribes: It's Hard to Be a 
Man.” On a dark Cambridge basement stage, the cast 
assumed their roles as the singing and dancing, flaccidity-lov- 
ing residents of Lympville. TTie plot twisted as Lord Peter 
Everhard 111 tried in vain to lure Lympvillians to his prototype 
community, the Island Paradise of Hardonia. The racing of 
pulses was palpable as all ten cast members emanated a sym- 
phonic collective orgasm. On a more earnest note, Critchley 
also spoke on a panel entided “Art for AIDS Sake: Is the 
Disease Still a Valid Metaphor?” presented by the Harvard 
University Arts Committee on AIDS on World AIDS Day. 




BARRY CLIFFORD 
ABOVE SEA-LEVEL 
PHOTO MARGOT 
NICOL-HATHAWAY 



PAGl 20 I PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 




The C-Scape Mapping Project continues as founder 
Traven Pelletier moves to Ann Arbor, Michigan. Pelletier 
ushered dozens of artists to the C-Scape dune shack over 
the last two winters, and the results will be shown for a 
second year at the Schoolhouse Gallery. Recent highlights 
of the project include a Global Positioning Satellite System 
(GPS) workshop with mapping project co-founder Mark 
Adams, a radio piece for WOMR's Environmental 
Roundtable by artist Jen Bradley, and a Landscape Arts and 
Mapping Project with the Cape Cod Lighthouse Charter 
School and local artist Mary Alice Johnston. A book docu- 
menting the project’s last three years in the dunes is under 
construction. Pelletier expressed both sadness and joy in 
setting off from his native Cape, but assures that he will 
stay involved with both the C-Scape Mapping Project and 
the local arts community. We wish him well. 




The Fine Arts Work Center’s 

Summer Program is in full swing, 
with courses in writing and art by 
the likes of Michael Cunningham, 
Mark Doty, Selina Trieff, and Paul 
Bowen. On August 26th, as part 
of Stanley Kunitz’s 95th birthday 
bash, LAWC will rededicate the 
newly refurbished Stanley Kunitz 
Common Room with special readings by literary luminar- 
ies and a concurrent exhibition of works by Elise Asher, the 
poet's wife. This winter FAWC announced a $2 million 
capital campaign. Acknowledging that its “history has been 
filled with tough times,” Board President Hatty Walker 
Fitts looked forward to a future as rich in funding as FAWC 
is in its legacy. 



1999-2000 FAWC 
FELLOWS AND FRIENDS 
AT THE ANNUAL 
DUNESHACK LUNCH 



This winter one couldn't ntiss the flaxen-haired Mary Jane 
Dean wheeling her fifty-four-liter glass bottle (originally 
intended for Italian wine) along Commercial Street. Dean, 
a Fine Arts Work Center visual fellow, captained the “Drift 
Bottle Project,” which celebrated Provincetown’s “aspira- 
tions, thoughts, dreams, and insights” in the form of mes- 
sages written by townspeople, collected in black boxes in- 
stalled at various public sites, then stuffed in the bottle, 
and ultimately set off to sea. In addition to the bottle. Dean 
listed her materials thusly; “60 lbs. lead, wax, cork, sisal, 
copper, nautical charts, blueprints ... 500 messages, one 
town, one boat, one ocean.” After a conclusion ceremony, 
the Drift Bottle was launched from the Endeavor, a Woods 
Hole Oceanographic Institute research vessel. Last seen 
floating in the Atlantic Gulf Stream in a north-easterly di- 
rection, its discovery had yet to transpire at press time. 

DNA Gallery owner Nick Lawrence flew south this spring, 
opening a new venue in New York City along with two 
partners. LFL Gallery, in the heart of Chelsea, had a smash- 
ing opening night; director Zach Feuer reported over 200 
visitors, including several P’towners. The gallery’s first show 
included a neon sign by Matt DilHng, spelling out the words, 
“1 miss you." Not to worry, Provincetown won’t have to 
miss DNA. This season, gallery veterans including Anna 
Poor, Joel Meyerowitz, Tabitha Vevers, Daniel Ranalli, Peter 
Hutchinson, Gregory Amenoff, Francie Randolph, and Bob 
Bailey will be joined by Janice Redman, whose sculptures, 
whether wrapped or not, are absolute gifts. 

In a fitting tribute, Bill Evaul recently exhibited white-line 
portraits of the Provincetown Printers at the Charles 
I Demuth Foundation in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Closer to 
1 home, he showed recent work at the Davis Gallery in June, 

i In December, the Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers Uni- 

versity will exhibit six-foot prints acquired for the opening 
of the David and Ruth Robinson-Eisenberg Gallery. Evaul’s 
latest commission is a CD cover for jazz singer Lisa Yves, 
due out this fall. 



With sadness we note the passing of Gregory Gillespie, a 
celebrated painter whose retrospective was traveling the 
country at the time of his death. While he lived in 
Belchertown, MA, Gillespie was a frequent visitor to Prov- 
incetown, and taught at the Fine Arts Work Center’s Sum- 
mer Program. FAWC will hold a memorial tribute in August. 

This spring. New York got a taste of Provincetown’s favor- 
ite views in the form of Pat de Groot’s pristine paintings 
of the harborview out her Commercial Street window. De 
Groot’s first New York solo show took place at the Pat Hearn 
Gallery, and her small-scale gems, depicting sea, horizon, 
and sky in various states of weathery grace, held their own 
on the enormous walls of Chelsea. Many locals attended 
the opening, including Paul Bowen, who said the work 
“really sparkled," and added, “It was great to see that, at 
last, Pat is getting the recognition she deserves.” Proof is in 
the glowing review of a New York Times critic, who wrote, 
“one feels the sensual reality of both the world and the 
paint the way one does with Monet or Pissaro.” 

This winter, a sign-in form made its way around town bear- 
ing the following message: “GONE — Are you aware of 
anyone who has left or is leaving Provincetown due to lack 
of available, affordable housing? We are collecting names for 
a commemorative memorial project." Long Ests of names im- 
pressed, or perhaps depressed. No word yet on how friends 
lost to more affordable locales will be commemorated. 

Last summer, Bob Kennedy 
of Kennedy Galleries made 
a quick pencil sketch that 
quickly evolved into an oil 
painting, his first still life in 
forty years. The composi- 
tion is a happy accident re- 
sulting from everyday do- 
mestic clutter, including Provincetown Arts 1999, which sits 
on the table at right. 




BOB KENNEDY, STILL LIFE NO 2 



Ab Ex-style to hard-edge minimalism. Blair acknowledges 
that he and his partner are “not landscape kind of people," 
which perhaps explains their having culled artists not from 
Provincetown, but from New York, Ohio, San Francisco, 
England, Italy, and France. Vive la difference! 

In memoriam, with love from Eileen Myles and Kann Cook: 
“Kristyna (aka Chicken) Morton-Meraz was a poet and 
writer, a Gemini, a great old soul. She was born in South- 
ern California and migrated to San Francisco as a teen. She 
began to find her poetic self in the midst of the Sister Spit 
tribe of writers and perfomters in the Mission. Last Septem- 
ber she rocked and debghted a crowd at the Schoolhouse when 
she read from her scorching ‘Letters to Momma,’ followed by 
an awesome deEvery of Dr. Seuss’s Fox and Socks. The evening 
was a luminous release, totaUy in keeping with the being of 
this warm, sexy, tough, and brilEant girl. Kristyna came to 
P’town for the first time in the summer of ’98. She waEced 
into Coconuts, bought a pah of sunglasses from Lisa Bonenfant 
and fell in love. Knstyna had come home. She died of leuke- 
mia on June 2nd at the age of twenty-eight. She was m the 
company of her mother and father, her lover Lisa, and her 
beloved friends. That afternoon there was a fierce storm in 
Provincetown. ‘Have no doubt,’ Lisa said, ‘that storm was my 
baby showing off . . . she’s Eke that.’’’ A coEection of Kristyna ’s 
work is beutg gathered for pubEcation in early fall. Tax-de- 
ductible contributions can be sent to: The Community Com- 
pact/Kristyna Fund, PO Box 819, Provincetown, MA 02657. 



“Are they filming The Perfect StornP." asked one of many 
gawkers lingering outside the Old Colony to watch the film- 
ing of Off Season Co-written by Provincetown High 
School graduate Casey Clark and Blythe Frank, the short 
takes place in a fictional fishing community called Shank 
Painter Point. The confusion was understandable. The 
venue did resemble the Gloucester bar where much of the 
bestselling novel and film are set. And further doubletakes 
ensued as scruffy actors mingled with real-life fishermen, 
the difference perceptible only to those able to distinguish 
between weather-worn sldn and piles of pancake make-up. 




DICK MILLER, BLAIR 
RESIKA, AND CARMEN 
CICERO 



MT.' Payomet Performing Arts in 

Truro presents a bountiful line-up 
” this season, beginning with a four- 
week run oiFnll Gallofs a one-per- 
son play about the life of “sultana 
of style" Diana Vreeland, starring 
Geraldine Librandi. Other high- 
lights include: singer Blah Resika, 
pianist Dick Miller, and alto sax player Carmen Cicero trio- 
ing up for a “Triple Centennial" of music by Victor Young, 
Kurt Weill, and Arthur Schwartz; and clarinetist Paul Nossiter 
leading a Centennial Salute to Louis Armstrong. On a diver- 
gent path, Stephen Kinzer, New York Times Istanbul Bureau 
Chief, speaks on “Dictators I Have Known: 20 Years Among 
Despots, Tyrants, and War Criminals on Three Continents." 




MICHAEL HATTERSLEY 



This year’s Fall Arts Festival, to 

be held from September 22nd to 
October 1st, is coordinated by art- 
ist and art writer Rena Lindstrom. 
Subtitled “Days & Nights,” the 
festival will feature round-the- 
clock exhibitions, readings, open 
studios, auctions, seminars, theater, 
and parties. Last year’s coordina- 
tor, Michael Hattersley, expressed the following encourag- 
ing thoughts: “1 think that, due to the efforts of many people, 
Provincetown may be on the verge of another cultural re- 
naissance, Look at last year alone: we’ve had a Film Festi- 
val, a Poetry Festival, a Centennial Fall Arts Festival, and a 
series of Playwrights Festivals. A1 were of high artistic qual- 
ity and drew great audiences. It’s our cultural heritage and 
future that will prevent Provincetown from becoming 
merely a beautiful beach with a line of T-shirt shops.” 



At least two new gaUeries joEi the 
scene this summer. Larson Gallety 
features landscapes by Vermont 
painter Frank Larson and by his 
son, Alan, as well as the paintings 
and fiber-works of Richard De 
Quattro. De Quattro renders de- 
tails of Provincetown’s shoreline 
architecture with exuberant color 
and pattern, and bestows love on humble objects and set- 
tings in a way that might be called Matissean. His sculp- 
ture in the form of clothing — tunics and hats woven from 
multi-color yarns and strips of fabric — read as chainmail 
armor for an all-carnival world. aHead: contemporary 
Art house is the dream made real for co-owners Jerry 
Devine and Ho Blair. The little gallery’s red walls are hung 
salon-style with affordable works ranging from outsider 
art, to fused glass, to paintings in everything from brushy 




RICHARD DE QUATTRO, 
THE LOVERS, C 1 995 



The Provincetown Art Association and Museum's big 

winter event was an exhibition from the permanent collec- 
tion at the National Arts Club in New York. Works selected 
by museum director Robyn Watson and artist and art 
historian Tony Vevers represented seventy artists from 
Charles Hawthorne to M.P. Landis. A panel discussion called 
“Provincetown Connections" was presented in conjunction 
with the exhibition and featured artists Will Barnet, Robert 
Henry, Joyce Johnson, Lillian Orlowsky, Jim Peters, and Jack 
Pierson, and gallerist Pat Hearn. Highlights of the summer 
season are too many to list, but don't miss the three-part 
exhibition, “The Art Colony’s First Century,” a series of 
panel discussions called “Forum 2000," and the “Masquer- 
ade Ball des Artistes,” a Provincetown tradition dating back 
to 1915, to be revived at Town Hall in July, 



PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 I PAGE 21 



Just in time for spring flowers, the Provincetown Library 
replaced its fallen linden tree with a new American elm on 
the front brick "lawn." An Arbor Day dedication ceremony 
featured Selectman David Atlcnson speaking on “Tlie Story 
of the ‘Three Town Tree' and the American Liberty Elm." 
For those who still miss the old tree, the Supporters of the 
Provincetown Public Library offer pieces of its stump, 
sanded, oiled, and branded with a linden leaf, for $10 each. 

Field Correspondant Oona Patnck gave the following take 
on the second annual Provincetown Poetry Festival, 
organized by Roger Chauvette and Dennis Rhodes: “On an 
otherwise quiet weekend in the middle of April, an 
enthusiastic group gathered for a week's worth of events 
squeezed into just under four days. Accomplished poets 
such as Frank Caspar, Dean Kostos, and Alfred Com mixed 
with poets of all levels. Judging from the number of readings 
that began with, 'I'm not a poet, but ...,' many seemed to 
have found a comfortable place to experiment. Common 
subjects were the Cape Cod landscape, gay themes, and 
the Portuguese-Amencan experience. The overall theme 
was ‘‘Hometowns,” which Caspar anchored with a keynote 
speech. In it. a picture emerged of locals’ collective 'maps' 
moving from the houses to the cemetenes, as he described 
a family site: 'One of the flat stones by the chapel’ — you 
know the ones. Kathe Izzo's panel, 'Provincetown as a 
Hometow'n: The Future of an Inner Life,’ centered on the 
town’s collective memory, which is. of course, a source for 
its poetry. A long, rambunctious poetry slam at the Crown 
& Anchor closed the festival. Tlie Poetry Festival fits into a 
trend of new events, such as the Portuguese Festival, that 
are creating temporarv spaces for those who don’t fit, or 
don’t want to fit. into existing institutions. In true 
Provincetown style, this festival gathered a wonderfully 
screwy collection of disparate people who would seem to 
have little in common except for a love of poetry, and of 
Provincetown.” 

Among the speakers on Izzo's panel w'as Peter Manso, who 
is currendy writing a book on the social history of Province- 
town, forthcoming from Simon & Schuster in 2001. Manso 
recalled the Provincetown of his youth, where he sum- 
mered w’ith his father, painter Leo Manso, as "a place of 
freedom, a place to roam." He spoke of clamming, 
boatbuilding, sandalmaking, and sailing. "1 was part of the 
group that founded the West End Sailing Club. There ... 
Provincetown gave me a mentor — Flyer Santos, whose 
gruffness was unrelenting. 1 learned to sail and to read the 
wind, however, and later 1 began racing in the regular 
weekend races — P’town in those days had a real fleet of 
three beautiful 2 lOs, as well as a bunch of Lightnings, and 
we had an ongoing rivalry with Wellfleet. 1 crewed for 
.Adolph Gottlieb, the abstract painter, and his gruffness 
was not nearly as unselfish as Flyer’s.” He also remem- 
bered the '50s and ’60s, “before Provincetown got rich," 
as a time when people balanced serious work with wild 
parties, and urged more of the latter: "What 1 suspect is 
that if Provincetown is to remain a home to artists, mav- 
ericks. and outcasts — if it is to keep its character as the 
Wild West of the East — by which 1 mean the epicenter of 
■American individualism — then a little old-fashioned mis- 
behavior may be in order, even unabashed muse-driven 
nuttiness, certainly more drinking.” Cheers. 

Following a bnlliant 1999 season, with Awi’lioM^orv named 
one of the year’s best regional productions by the Boston 
Clol’c and a star-studded and groundbreaking fall 1999 fo- 
rum called "The Future of American Theater” (featuring 
Terrance McNally, August Wilson. John Guare, Christopher 
Durang, A.R. Gurney, Wendy Kesselman, Lanford Wilson, 
Paula Vogel, and Jon Robin Baitz), the Provincetown Rep- 
ertory Theater began rethinking its own future. Hopes to 
build a home theater at the base of the Monument, in play 
since 1996, were dashed as fiscal realities set in. Artistic 
Director Ken Hoyt assures that the shows will go on, but 
tlie question is — where’ At press time, a new prospect had 
ansen and all looked good. This year's highlight is sure to 
be a performance of shorts written by visiting playwright 
Craig Lucas, of Prcliuk to ti Kiss fame. 



PAGE 22 I PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 



This year’s culminatory Provincetown Theatre Company 
event is a "Fall Playwright’s Festival celebrating the 101st an- 
niversary of Provincetown as an Arts Colony.” Did the PTC 
not get their fill of centennial festivities last year, or is tfiis one 
of those “it’s not the next millenmum until 2001” tneks? Also 
on the bill, Paula Vogel's Pulitzer Prize-winning play //oir / 
Learned to Drive, A.R. Gurney’s comedy Sylvia, and the 
Children’s Theatre selection. The Prince W ho W'onUn 't Talk, by 
James Brock. PTC, in it’s 37th year, stages its summer produc- 
tions at the Provincetown Inn in the far West End. 



On a hot Manhattan night in 
May, upwards of 1 ,500 revelers 
danced under fireworks, a cres- 
cent moon, and Provincetown 
artist Sal Randolph's “Yellow 
Things," 5,000 woven yellow 
pipe-cleaners installed in several 
cabins of the Frying Pan, an old 
barge on the Fiudson River. TTie 
installation was meant to 
“evoke the underwater imagery of murkily lit coral reefs 
from Jacques Cousteau's 1970s adventures," and it did, 
forming an exotic backdrop to "Take Back the Decks." The 
festival of “women in underground music” featured wizard 
DJ/turntablists spinning hip-hop, house, and “basement 
bhangra” (asian underground spun by DJ Rekha). We’re 
waiting for Mishpucha, the collective of “music activists” 
who made the night happen, to bnng us “DJ’s in the Dunes!” 




DETAIL OF YELLOW THINGS 




RAY FISHER'S PORTRAIT OF 
KAREN BLACK, C 1966, 
FROM "MOVIE STARS" 



The Schoolhouse Center 

went back to the roots of its 
building’s original use with 
“Arts of Independence,” a 
spring exhibition of work by 
students participating in the 
Provincetown Academy of Art. 
Science, and Technology, a 
community mentoring pro- 
gram. “Movie Stars,” an exhibi- 
tion of vintage celebrity head 
shots, offers just a taste of the riches presented by in-house 
\intage photography curator Larry Collins. Gallery artists in- 
cluding Donald Beal. Jen Bradley, David Cairino, Barbara 
Cohen, Amy Kandall. and Paul Lee, will also have shows. 
Beginning in late June, Narrowland Stage presents “The 
Summer Salons,” a series of perfomiances curated and pro- 
duced by David Davis and featuring the Mark Meehan Trio, 
James Lecesne, Ricky Ian Gordon, and Brenda Currin. This 
year’s Artist In Residence, poet and author Nick Flynn, cu- 
rates the Schoolhouse Reading Series and will lead a panel 
discussion on “Obsession.” 



The Shadow Writing Project is breaking bright and sub- 
versive new ground with a spoken-word CD featuring 
Shadow members and high school teachers. Shadow 
founder Kathe Izzo reports, “We have been experimenting 
this year, reading to drummer Sylvie Richard, and diving 
deeper into the universal unconscious, working overtime.” 
Izzo had a breakthrough year, showing in San Francisco, 
Boston, and here, at the Schoolhouse, where she presented 
“Spiral of Home,” a collaborative installation by thirty three 
girls and women born in Provincetown. This fall she will 
apprentice with a corset maker in Venice Beach as part of a 
residency at the 18th Street Studios in Santa Monica. Cor- 
sets will populate her new installations. Her poetry appeared 
in the recently released Outlaw Bible of American Poetry, pub- 
lished by Thunders Mouth Press. 

Theater in the Ground at Sep- 
tic Space kicked off its second sea- 
son with a Septic Graduation Cer- 
emony in May. Conceived by Prov- 
incetown/Califomia artist Raphael 
JAY CRITCHLEY AT 1 7TH Noz, who recognized that “No one 
ANNUAL RE-ROOTERS takes you seriously as an artist 
PHOTO WALT GREELEY vvithout an MFA,” the ceremony 
awarded honorary MFA’s to all tak- 
ers. Recipients had only to choose a major to receive a hand- 
some diploma and hand-made metal medallion. After 
Pearlene sang the National Anthem, degrees were awarded 




in disciplines ranging from “Sheetrocking,” to “Hempology” 
to “Chartreuse.” Other summer perfomiances wiil include 
the return of “Septic Opera: Heaven and Hell.” Septic Space 
founder Jay Critchley explains his unorthodox underground 
venue this way: “O’Neill and the Provincetown Players had 
abandoned wharves to work with in the early 1900s; we 
have abandoned septic tanks for the early 2000s. Let’s keep 
the tradition alive!” The space is also available for rituals, 
art installations, and commitment ceremonies. 




Tristan Gallery opened the high 
season with “Small Town Life,” 
aka, “The Townie Show.” Among 
those reflecting on the mostly 
heartwarming matter — Midge 
Battelle, Paul Bowen, Carole 
Carlson. Michael Carroll, John 
Dowd, Chet Jones, Lee Mussel- 
man. Morgan Norwood, Elizabeth 
Pearl, and Sky Power. Gallery art- 
ists Dianna Matherley, Marc 
Civitarese, Phil Spinks, and Pauline 
Lim will show throughout the 
summer. October brings a show of 
images from the “Obsessed with Breasts Campaign,” an in- 
vitational exhibition called “From tlie Heart,” and a reprisal 
of last year's “21/31 Dianna,” a photographic essay by Jamie 
DeVener documenting one woman's journey through breast 
cancer treatment and recovery. The woman is Matherley, 
who calls her own work “an expression of passion and love” 
as she celebrates her fifth anniversary of remission follow- 
ing two battles widi breast cancer. 



DIANNA MATHERLEY, 
NOTHING TO HIDE, 1999 



Over fifty summer workshops at the Truro Center for 
the Arts at Castle Hill will include new classes in video, 
illustration, and kiln-fired glass. Exhibitions will include an 
invitational called “Self-Examination,” curated by Tom 
McCanna and Mary Stackhouse. Actor Kevin McCarthy will 
present scenes from his one-man show. Give 'Em Hell Harry, 
and readings from his book, Invasion of the Body Snatchers. 
This year's Distinguished Artists and Writers Chair, Sebastian 
Junger, will give a lecture and workshop in August. 

Provincetown playwright Sinan Uriel’s Pera Palas opened 
to rave reviews at London’s Gate Theatre in May. TTie play’s 
title refers to the Pera Palas Hotel in Istanbul, where much 
of the action takes place in a single room. While limiting 
space, Unel blows time wide open — his characters exist si- 
multaneously just after WW 1, in the 1950s, and in 1994. 
The Sunday Times of London described how the Turkish- 
American playwright knows “exactly where the flash points 
are when cultures clash,” and understands “the springs of 
motivation, the aggression and insecurity that turn emigra- 
tion, internal or external, from personal liberation into a 
political act.” Upon returning home, Unel reflected on the 
feat of rehearsing a virtual epic over just three weeks, and 
added, “It was especially moving for me to see some of my 
dearest friends in the audience on opening night: Jackie and 
Louise Kelley, Scott Penn, Mary Jo Avellar, Rose Steele from 
Provincetown, Lynda Stumer, Joan Fox, and Barbara Wise 
from Truro, and several friends from New York City. It was 
quite a night for me and a wonderful celebration.” 



Wellfleet Harbor Actors TTieater opens its 2000 season 
with Tony Award-winner Julie Harris in The Beauty Queen 
ofLeenane, a dark comedy about a lonely woman that prom- 
ises a “terrifying denouement.” Not to be missed: Ruby Tues- 
day, written and directed by WHAT founder Gip Hoppe. 
The play is set in the year 2025, in a technologically ob- 
sessed “wired nation” in which support for the arts has de- 
volved to such an extent that the NEA gives only one grant 
to one artist. Regarding WHAT’s recent transition to full- 
Equity status and the purchase of a Wellfleet house for its 
actors, Co-Artistic Director Jeff Zinn affirmed, “We have a 
nice stability growing.” 

Wohlfarth Galleries is especially pleased to present its 
July exhibition of fine Ins prints by John Paul Caponigro. 
The show is called “Elemental Waterways” and the im- 
ages show what happens when an artist lets very loose 
with photographs and a computer. In Causeway, the sea 




becomes the sky and the sky the 
sea, while a stone pathway reaches 
toward a horizon you'd swear is 
upside down, until you realize 
there’s no such thing as an upside 
down horizon. Or is there? 

In April, Provincetown Arts poetry editor Rebecca WolfFs 
first play had a staged reading at the Medicine Show The- 
ater in New York. Urluma, billed as “A Cocktail Farce of Ar- 
tistic Dynasty," is set in a Cape summer cottage “decorated 
with found items of bygone bohemia — chipped pottery, 
beach glass, beat-up antiqueish furniture." Artists and writ- 
ers in their thirties, gathered here for the first cocktail party 
of the season, chat in that seemingly friendly, subtly biting, 
lock-jawed way that only long-time friends from families 
with legacies do. Wolff's characters, however parodically 
drawn, are disarmingly familiar. They possess a collective 
ennui borne of the realization that their famed forbears had 
so much to believe in, “that whole Communist intellectual 
thing," as one character puts it. Another laments that if they 
were to start a magazine to succeed the Panisatt Review, 
“We’d have to call it the /m/iartw/ Review.” A Dr. Seussian 
detail — artists wear gold stars on their foreheads as a sym- 
bol of authenticity — in its knowing absurdity, contrasts with 
Vrbana’s underlying seriousness. The play (and the party) 
ends when its most earnest character has a miscarriage, an 
ominous indicator that not only God, but any kind of faith 
and conviction at all, is dead. 

WOMR’s new Saturday afternoon Metropolitan Opera 
broadcasts inspired about a hundred letters and calls of grati- 
tude, pouring in from all over the Cape and even Nantucket. 
Salvatore Del Deo wrote to say, “I have grown up with the 
Texaco broadcasts from their very first program and I would 
have hated to lose that privilege after all those years.” He 
thanked WOMR for its overall support of “the ‘voice,’ i.e. 



opera, oratorio, and art songs," and expressed hope that 
younger generations would listen in: “Those of us who were 
lucky enough to grow up in a time when the Met opera 
broadcasts were a must for the entire family have to help 
the young people who are not so fortunate." 

ART AWARDS 

Provincetown pinhole photographer Marian Roth won 
the highly prized Guggenheim Award, given “on the basis 
of distinguished achievement in the past and exceptional 
promise for future accomplishment." She included in her 
application pictures taken with pinhole cameras made from 
cookie tins, cans, and the C-Scape dune shack. Her most 
recent images were made in a van. Provincetown/Miami 
artist Necee Regis won a Pollock-Krasner grant for her 
“Jet Series." Susan Jennings won the coveted Louis C. 
Tiffany Foundation grant, a biennial award supporting 
promising artists who have yet to receive widespread 
recognition. 

BOOK NOTES 

Jhumpa Lahiri followed Michael Cunningham as the sec- 
ond former FAWC fellow in a row to win the Pulitzer Prize 
for fiction. Lahiri wrote her book of short stories, Iiiterf’reter 
of Makiiies, published by Mariner Press, during her 1997- 
98 fellowship. Former FAWC fellow Sarah Messer’s first 
book of poems. Bandit Letters, won the Mary Roberts 
Rinehart Award and will be published by New Issues Press 
in July of 2001. Red House, a roving memoir of the house 
Messer grew up in, will be published by Viking in the fall of 
200 1 . Look forward to the summer appearance of Perfect 
Disaf’i’earauce, Martha Rhodes’ second book of poems, 
and winner of the 1999 Green Rose Prize from New Issues 
Press. Rhodes’ first book of poetry, At the Gate, was pub- 
lished by Provincetown Arts Press. Frank X. Caspar’s 



latest book of poems, A Field Guide to the Heavens, pub- 
lished by the University of Wisconsin Press, was selected 
by Robert Ely to win the Brittingham Prize in Poetry. Philip 
Gambone's Something Inside: Conversations with Gay Fiction 
Writers, also Wisconsin, features interviews with writers 
including Dennis Cooper, Alan Hollingshurst, and Michael 
Cunningham, the last of which was recorded on WOMR. 
Where the Sky Ends: A Memoir of Alcohol and Family, by M.G. 
Stephens, a past contributor to Provincetown Arts, was pub- 
lished by Hazelden in 1999. Poetry Festival co-founder Den- 
nis Rhodes’ S/’/nti/s Pizza d’ Other Poems was released this 
spring by Vital Links Media. Sarah Blake’s Grange House, 
a story inspired by a box of love letters written by the 
author’s great grandmother, will be out this summer from 
Picador USA. Sam the Cat and Other Stories, by former FAWC 
fellow and O. Henry Award winner Matt Klam, was pub- 
lished by Random House in May. Provincetown 's William 
Mann takes on Hollywood with The Btograj’li Girl, a novel 
reimagining the life of Florence Lawrence, the world’s first 
movie star, published this year by Kensington. 



FINAL NOTE 

Truro poet Robert Strong wintered in New York this year, 
supporting himself with catenng gigs. He sent this report 
following one art-star-studded night: “It’s snowing big flakes 
on Mott Street. Last night catered the Chuck Close opening 
at Pace on Greene Street. Highlights of eavesdropping: ‘It 
helps to squint your eyes,’ and ‘I don’t need any food as long 
as I have a drink in my hands.’ At the end of the night Close 
came up to me at the bar and handed over a ‘Chuck Close’ 
flyer, under which was written, 'caught a buzz.'” 




Letter from the Editor 

Eileen Myles describes a certain poetic process as “putting yourself in the 
middle of a place and being excited and stunned by it, and trying to make 
sense of it in your work.” I can’t think of a better way to characterize 
Provincetown Arts, which, for fifteen years, has conveyed the work of 
hundreds of artists and writers in a town that is eminently exciting, 
nothing if not stunning, and, quite often, rife with an enchanting sort of 
nonsense that makes it all the more joyful and rewarding to capture its 
wonder on the page. 

In last year’s issue, we celebrated Provincetown ’s centennial as an arts 
colony with an emphasis on years past. This time around, it’s all about 
now. Featured subjects — from the local kids in Mischa Richter’s 
photographs, to Stanley Kunitz on his 95th birthday — are absolutely alive. 
Not just alive, but being alive. Which brings me back to Eileen, who once 
said that she moved from her Massachusetts birthplace to New York City, 
“to be a poet.” This self-determined embodiment of one’s calling, no 
matter how fringey it may seem, resonates in this town, which might have 
something to do with Eileen finding a home here a few years back. 

Last fall Eileen mentioned that she would be living in Los Angeles for 
the winter. 1 told her that Musty Chiffon had just moved there, and that 
Sebastian Junger had been visiting for the filming of The Perfect Storm. Oh, 
she said, Sebastian and I used to live next-door to each other in the East 
Village. Jack Pierson, who spent a leisurely Sunday in May photographing 
Eileen for our cover, has also been making the P’town-NYC-LA rounds. 
This gets me thinking not only about what a nomadic tribe we are, but 
about how often our paths “coincidentally” converge. I’d bet that if someone 
drew a map with lines representing the journeys of people and ideas aU over 
the country, many would begin and end, and begin again, here. 

Our core section is called “Odysseys.” Musty and Sebastian are there. 

So is Nick Flynn’s memoir of his seven summers spent living on a boat in 
our harbor, the task of keeping the boat afloat an ersatz effort for keeping 
other beings correspondingly buoyed. Karin Cook recounts a trans-Adantic 



cargo flight, on which she accompanied championship show-jumping 
horses, also yielding revelations of an internal sort. Necee Regis reports on 
the art happenings of Miami, her winter home; Vincent Cleary follows the 
footsteps of Thoreau; Capt. Betsy recalls profound moments in Floating 
Neutrino history; Peter Alson describes the torment of consummating a 
book; Stephen Aiken interviews Cherie Nutting on her extended 
pilgrimage to find and photograph Paul Bowles; Melanie Braverman scribes 
through a friend’s death to finally let her go. These are “writes of 
passage” — ruminations on going from here to there, whether in a literal, 
geographical sense, or in ways more esoteric and emotional. There are 
eighteen “Odysseys,” and that’s another coincidence — Chris Busa 
reminded me that Joyce’s Ulysses contains eighteen chapters, too. 

Our poetry section begins with Rebecca Wolff’s essay titled 
“Provincetown Is the Center of the Universe,” which is only somewhat 
tongue-in-cheek. Her solar system of Provincetown poets expands to 
encompass faraway stars. Ivy Meeropol selected fiction in which “the 
characters are evolving, going somewhere new, surprising themselves, and 
us, with their reactions.” Art and book reviews focusing on artists and 
writers close to our hearts are followed by a final section called “Comm’l 
St.,” which, with articles on everything from one of Provincetown’s 
favorite drag artists to the rise of the new Whalers’ Wharf, brings us smack 
back home again. 

This morning 1 watched out my window an annual ritual — the 
repainting of the yellow no-parking lines on Commercial Street. It struck 
me that these are about the only boundaries we face around here, and that 
made me grateful. We can bear the imposition of an official rule or two; 
there’s so much else sense-making to do. 



Enjoy the magazine. 




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Never Real, Always TVue: 

An Interview with Eileen Myles 



FRANCES RICHARD 




EILEEN MYLES, 1980 

PHOTOGRAPH BY ROBERT MAPPLETHORPE 



n glossy magazines, the big interview begins with atmosphere. Eileen Myles meets me on Brewster Street, in an airy, 
funky. Old Provincetown atelier. We can see the bay. She is wearing black and orange Nose sneakers, a hip and clunky 
brand; she seems part adolescent (boy), part crone. Since moving to New York City from her native Massachusetts in 
1974, Eileen has written twelve books of poetry and prose. Stints in Provincetown and Los Angeles notwithstanding, 
she remains an icon of Manhattan's East Village art scene, and has performed everywhere from CBGB's to MoMA, not 
to mention Europe, Russia, and Iceland. She has toured nationally with Sister Spit, San Francisco's all-girl spoken-word 
extravaganza, and has taught most recently at Art Center and Otis College of Art and Design, both in California, and at the 
I New School for Social Research in New York. She edited a poetry magazine, dodgems, from 1977 to 1979; her columns and 
criticism have appeared in The Nation, Art in America, Paper, and The Village Voice. Write-in candidate for President of the 
United States in 1992, one-time assistant to poet and art writer James Schuyler, and Artistic Director of St. Mark's Poetry 
Project in New York: in Eileen, diverse territories touch, and this simultaneity radiates from her. At fifty, she still looks like the 
famous portrait Robert Mapplethorpe made in 1980. 

The body is important here. Lolling and tensing, gesturing, Eileen listens so acutely it's unnerving. Pulling out her poet's 
notebook— the covers creased from being sat on in her back pocket, where a wallet would wear its whitened outline in her 
'MQS— she shows me works in progress, short lines printed in black felt-tip pen. As she talks she turns the notebook, strokes 
and sitHwths it. The voice, too, is important. Eileen's speech casts light upon her writing. Her conversation spins in sweeping 
arcs, each question entertained from multiple viewpoints, so that her responses seem to meander and double back upon 
themselves and each moment of concise insight — one always comes — comes suddenly, almost as a shock. The attentive 
auditor (or reader) will realize, however, that she has been building toward that insight all along. Sometimes, in glossy 
magazines, the interviewer notes demurely how the interviewed celebrity is sexy. Eileen: a graceful, generous, somehow 
canine energy. 
















I drew a figure in my notebook, three circles that joined at 
one point, and lunged at it — that’s it, my spot, but then I 
realized it was poetry or the poetics of it that I was 
needing to address and I’ve hardly been anywhere other 
and I want to honor the place that I stand ... To include this 
body, mine, the woman’s as I see it, to approach this body 
as part of the score. 

— Eileen Myles, “The Lesbian Poet,” School of Fish 

(all subsequent selections from School of Fish, unless 
otherwise noted) 

Frances Richard: Origins seems a terribly tradi- 
tional place to begin, but so be it because, after all, 
who begat whom is always interesting. Ted 
Berrigan famously called you “the last poet of the 
New York School.” How does such a connection 
wear over time? Does the appellation still resonate 
for you? 

Edleen Myles: It depends on who asks. Once 1 was 
introduced at a reading by someone whom 1 
thought of as a Language poet, and when they 
described me as “New York School,” 1 experi- 
enced it as a critique — like 1 was retro. But, yes, 
those were the writers (Frank O’Hara, John 
Ashbery, Kenneth Koch, Barbara Guest) who 
woke me up, who gave me a sense of what an 
adventure being a poet could be. I was bom at 
the end of 1949. I'm really of the mid-20th cen- 
tury — the end of modernism — and they were 
right on the cusp of modern and postmodern, 
and I feel an affinity with that. Some of my best 
friends and greatest teachers, like Jimmy Schuyler 
and Ted, became family in the positive sense, 
part of my bloodline. Ultimately, though, “New 
York School” just means I learned to be a poet in 
New York. As an aesthetic it means putting your- 
self in the middle of a place and being excited 
and stunned by it, and trying to make sense of it 
in your work. 

and I said I simply walked and the tree 
turned, no the key and the bottom of the sea 
is flooded with light, we just get used to it 
the deeper and deeper we go and the harder 
it is to turn the key and eventually we 
go and it is very very dark 
we just get used to the light 
but the blues and the greys and the feelings 
of lostness, it’s like home, it’s like family. 

— “School of Fish” 

FR: Maybe the segue from modern to 
postmodern itself has to do with a change in the 
way we relate to location, with a mutation in our 
sense of belonging to a given landscape. It’s the dif- 
ference between assuming a particular place as your 
home context, even if that context is alienating, and 
adopting a nomadic or virtual existence where no- 
body really belongs anywhere. 

EM: Right. New York is a placeless place. It fills 
and refills and fills and refills, and it’s always the 
same and always different. It’s an endless mar- 
ketplace of culture — and definitely a particular 
kind of human thrives in that kind of structure. 

FR: I read somewhere that Auden and Schuyler 
had both been described as “city pastoralists.” 
So, since Schuyler was Auden’s assistant and you 



were Schuyler’s, that positions you in this particu- 
lar lineage of the fhtieur and commentator. 

EM: Which 1 do grab onto, in terms of understand- 
ing, even validating what I’m doing. The person 
who is my absolute hero and influence is Christo- 
pher Isherwood, who of course was Auden’s best 
friend. And Isherwood’s hero was Virginia Woolf. 
FR: What have you been given by, or taken from, 
this lineage? What traits do you carry? From 
Woolf to Isherwood to you, or Auden to 
Schuyler to you, through the filter of New York? 
EM: One thing 1 always think about — there’s a 
movie. The Last Clean Shirt, that Alfred Leslie made 
in collaboration with Frank O'Hara. Actually, it’s 
been screened lately in the O’Hara exhibition, which 
1 saw in LA. All it is, is an open convertible, a T- 
Bird, someplace in the '60s. There’s a man driving 
it, sort of a Middle Eastern-looking man and a very 
fair but dark-haired woman. The man’s driving the 
car, down Third Avenue past Cooper Union, get- 
ting to Houston Street, turning around, making this 
endless loop. And he’s driving silendy and we can 
see she’s yakking up a storm, and the film is silent 
with subtides written by O’Hara. First he translates 
what she’s saying, and then he translates what the 
man’s thinking. 

It’s wonderful because so often subtitles — just be- 
cause they’re text — feel like the poem of the movie, 
a kind of score. O’Hara scored the movie, which is 
just these great visuals of this wonderful car, these 
handsome people and this landscape that is both 
unchanging and utterly different. It was kind of 
like yippee! and kind of like sorrow, and it was 
profound and excited in that way that O’Hara’s 
voice just shifts and shifts and shifts and keeps tak- 
ing in everything and letting it out. When I saw 
that movie 1 thought, “That’s it.” That is, in the 
most classic sense, who O’Hara was, even what 
the New York School was. The poet was like this 
open car in the middle of the century, at some peak 
moments just saying, “Yes!” and catching the 
shape — moving through it all in a very excited way. 
People who romanticize and imitate O’Hara’s 
moment mistakenly think that abundance gets to 
be what it’s about — that mid-century excess and 
heroism and triumph, which it isn’t. 




History has continued. It’s the ’70s and the ’80s 
and the feeling changes. What 1 mean is there’s 
definitely an openness and a speech-basedness, 
and a contemporaneity that I think is very “New 
York School,” but what changes is the hhav. That’s 
a great word, do you know it? 1 got it from 
Isherwood’s book on Ramakrishna. He talks 
about the bhakti yogis, whose job is to address 
this quality of attention or being. The bhakti yogi 
enters a room and he tells a story, he gets people 
chanting, but the goal is to address this thing in 
the room called hhav, which is the quality of the 
room when people are there, and to move it. 
That’s what a poet, the poet, has to do. The poet 
has to address the hhav, not only in herself, but 
within the room of the culture. The world has 
continued to arrive, so maybe it’s not an open 
convertible anymore. It’s something else. Poetry 
is complexity — seeing the world in the terms it’s 
arriving in. 

1 was coming through the airport the other day 
and there was a billboard we were all passing 
under, a huge transparency of a crowd of 
people — like Grand Central Station. But it was 
an ad for the Internet. It said something like “one 
million hits a day.” I’m thinking about that flaneur 
idea of the poet. The character who lounges in the 
midst of the industrial crowd. But what if the crowd 
is virtual now — what flaneuri The feeling always 
changes. 

I flutter 
in my red blue 
everything's 
tower, this 
mud of 
mine moment 
it’s invisible 

— “The TroubadoP’ 

FR: Part of the way you’ve served your particu- 
lar hhav is through participation in community 
projects — everything from being Director at the 
Poetry Project to touring with Sister Spit and 
curating your current reading series at Thread 
Waxing Space. There are these moveable-feast 
poetry adventures that seem to connect the dots 
through the years for you. 

EM: I move in groups — my feeling about litera- 
ture is communal and I think it’s important to know, 
literally, who you’re writing for. When 1 met the 
Sister Spit girls — Michelle Tea, Sini Anderson, et- 
cetera — all these young dykes from San Francisco 
who are making up a girls’ literary movement and 
taking it on the road like a band — what was excit- 
ing was that they had heard me. 1 was part of their 
history. I’ve tried to move poetry away from its own 
center. 

FR: Or you’ve consistently stuck to your own 
center, where poetic practice that touches back 
in some ways, as we’ve said, to the moderns is 
just naturally overlapped and intertwined with 
new dyke aesthetics and a daily politics. The 
poem becomes the site where all those influences 
enact themselves. 



PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 I PAC 



EM: In the '80s I remember a friend telling me he 
thought I was “bringing Personism to per- 
formance.” I started doing perfomiance art, but it 
was out of a New York School impulse. 1 heard 
Spalding Gray and 1 thought, ‘He’s just doing 
poetry in a prosy, lengthy way.’ David 
Wojnarowicz and Dennis Cooper were totally 
New York School poets. So was Kathy Acker. Andy 
Warhol knew Ted Berrigan and Ted was very Pop. 
You know, this poetry is all very Pop, comic book, 
New York speech. It’s the cartoon voice of the 
culture. So it seems to me that all I've done is 
further that evolution. By the ’90s, with AIDS, and 
my own sense of aging, and, you know, needing a 
dentist — then my poetry became “political.” 
There’s a consciously political content that I’ve 
brought to poems because these are those times. 
That’s what the talking animal would be talking 
about now. It’s a political comic book now, it's a 
dying comic book. O’Hara didn’t have to watch 
his friends die around him. It’s a different bluw. 

FR: The Wwv includes gender-consciousness in a 
different way now, a more explicit way. 



EM: When 1 came to New York in the ’70s, I didn’t 
know I was a lesbian. 1 didn’t want to come out. 
1 was homophobic, or scared — 1 just didn’t want 
to be a dyke. There wasn't a woman in that circle 
of poets, either, who could receive me and let me 
know I was heard. Alice Notley, who was married 
to Ted Berrigan, was there, and we were, and are, 
great friends, but she was a married woman and a 
mother and she was going to have a different life. 
There was Jill Johnston, there was Gertrude Stein — 
I just started to make myself up as that woman. I 
made the model of what 1 needed there to be. I put 
lesbian content in the New York School poem 
because I wanted that poem to be there to receive 



me. What was so great about meeting this bunch 
of punky girls twenty years later was that I was 
received. But I was received later. It was like I had 
been talking to an imaginary tribe that then 
appeared, and that weirdly I even invented. Because 
when they saw my work they thought, “Oh, 1 can 
do this.” 1 sort of created my own audience. 

In me speaks 
the divine 
menagerie 
the nectar 

the blood on my hands 

Girls Girls Girls! 

I came to pray 

— "Waterfall” 

FR: Are you the intentional oudaw trailblazer, or 
is it more that you leapt and the net appeared? 

EM: I think they’re the same. 1 really got this when 
I ran for President. Often you don’t know some- 
thing exists until you stand up and be it, and then 
you catch all this stuff, it accumulates and sticks 



to you, and reality gets created. In AA parlance it’s 
“attraction not promotion.” The right thing hap- 
pens because of desire. 

I just finished a new book. Cool for You, and the 
process of finding the right publisher made me 
pretty nuts. As usual, I was like, “Okay, I'm ready 
for the mainstream culture to receive me.” I had 
that with Chelsea Girls, too. Both of these books 
were \rrose, so I thought of them as my “big books.” 
But in fact no one in that corporate publishing 
world could see me “on their list.” They were like, 
‘Ugh, this is harsh. Where’s the plot?’ So, I’m going 
with a cool, enthusiastic independent publisher. 
Soft Skull Press. They’re doing a huge run, and it 
seems perfect. I’ve always thought a poet should 
think big, not small. As a young person I met 
writers who were already in their midlife broken 
heart, and they would say, “Aghh, poets, two 



hundred people read you.” They were talking my 
expectations down. A poet shouldn’t be thinking 
about fame and glory. Well, what about Joni 
Mitchell! She “taped her regrets to the microphone 
stand.” A mass audience is created of an incredibly 
exquisite network of many litde communities. I’m 
thinking now of comfort as a mark of success. I 
write for the little community where I start, and 
I have no idea where that message may travel. To 
keep working, I’ve got to be comfortable in the 
way I function and create, with the machinery I 
have access to now. I am loving that word, 
“community” again, suddenly. 

FR: The exquisite network seems to extend in- 
side you too. The President and the poet are sort 
of inverse types for the cultural leader, and maybe 
what you’re talking about is the essential action 
of that leadership, this idea of generating or or- 
chestrating, simply believing in, communities of 
cultural energy. 

EM: r m totally dazzled by how things distrib- 
ute and disperse. Distribution is key. And yet, 
it’s so unknown, how it accomplishes itself. To 
have a litde more trust in that makes the whole 
process seem to work again. It’s odd that I have 
to keep relearning this and yet every time I do, 
it all opens like one of those terrific dreams that 
I feel everybody who lives in New York has had 
at one point — in which they open a closet . . . 

FR: ... and there’s a gorgeous extra room in their 
apartment. 

EM: Huge! Sometimes it opens into all the other 
apartments in New York. And that’s what’s im- 
portant, to continually rethink success and 
power and fame — and connect it to where you 
really live. 

FR: Last summer at the Schoolhouse Center here 
in P’town, you gave a talk called “How to Write 
an Avant Garde Poem.” In it you said, “I’m think- 
ing of plugging the avant garde poem into a local 
and public understanding of daily life alone and in 
community.” Again, there’s that word, coimmmity, 
spoken with a real political ring. Replace the words 
“avant garde” in that sentence — “I’m plugging 
AIDS awareness into a local and public understand- 
ing of daily life,” or “I’m plugging literacy into a 
local and public understanding of daily life.” 

EM: Right. Right right right. 

FR: So how do you define the contemporary avant 
garde? It seems to appear in your work as a posi- 
tive, even a beloved term, a politicized term, but 
not so much a contested one. 

EM: It seems large, and that’s why I like to use it 
again. There was time when the poetry I felt most 
immediately affected by split, and labels were af- 
fixed that said, “you’re New York School” and 
“you’re Language,” as though these were really dif- 
ferent things, when in fact Language came out of 
New York School, and New York School came out 
of French Surrealism and Russian Futurism and 
John Cage and Lana Turner. It is one flow. The 
thing that no one talks about is real estate. When 
lots of artists had lofts in the ’70s there were big 
parties where people of different gangs danced and 
drank together. And they turned up in each other’s 




I MOVE IN GROUPS" EILEEN WITH SISTER SPIT IN SAN FRANCISCO, 1997 



PAGE 26 I PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 



magazines. The fact that people stopped seeing 
each other socially when all those lofts got sold 
meant, on a certain level, that we stopped trying 
to understand each other’s work. 

FR: So an avant garde is symbiotic with the larger 
culture, even if it’s also in opposition. 

EM: Yet it has its own history. Gertrude Stein, 
for example, in this century, is kind of the mother 
of us all. If Stein’s not important to you, then 
probably you are going off into some whole other 
area. I evolved the way I did because that’s where 
I was received. I picked up Stein and I wanted 
to know more about this. I applied to a bunch of 
graduate schools and most of them didn’t accept 
me and one did, and there I was only acciden- 
tally turned on by a professor to the “New York 
School poets,” and stumbled to St. Mark’s, fell out 
of school and then I was there. That was the po- 
etry I was exposed to, that was the place where I 
grew. Maybe, for us then, “avant garde” was a way 
to explain the kind of theater that, say, Richard 
Foreman was doing, and I knew my kind of poets 
were related to that kind of theater. In retrospect, 
it was about liking that kind of band, too. Richard 
Hell. Patti Smith. It meant knowing about things 
outside of the center — of convention — that was a 
given in my world. 

I think it’s about the center moving, too. The first 
time I saw the word “mainstream” was in the ’80s. 
Some article called “Mainstreaming Allen 
Ginsberg,” when his Collected Poems was coming 
out. And I thought, ‘How odd, they make it sound 
like they’re making him bigger.’ It just meant they 
were giving him a big book, but Allen was already 
huge, global. Right away there seemed to be this 
misnomer, the “mainstream.” Since then it’s be- 
come the flood everybody is trying to jump into 
to exist, and if you’re not in it you’re invisible. 

0 eat me read 
me something 

1 am the daughter 
of substitution 

— “Merk” 



FR: Do you think that sense of invisibility is new? 
You were talking before about being trained as a 
poet not to expect glory. 

EM: Right. But it feels different somehow. Actu- 
ally maybe it only feels different in temis of being 
older. At this point in my life, with a huge body of 
work, I do feel threatened sometimes — when 1 
think I face annihilation as a woman, as opposed 
to the situation of male poets. I’m thinking, ‘Oh, 
they still think I’m a woman! Unbelievable! I’m 
going to suffer this female obliteration.’ Even look- 
ing at someone like Muriel Rukeyser, who’s so 
important and great, and realizing there were 
twenty years where you could not find her work. 
Stein too — impossible to find. The danger feels 
more personal than it did when I was younger. 1 
feel more mortal, and my work feels more mortal, 
too. I feel more in need of finding some way ei- 
ther to win, you know — knock knock knock and 
make the huge door open — or, whether that hap- 
pens or not, realizing the door has to be open here, 
within, first, just to write. 

FR: Speaking of lines of inheritance, that’s another 
important trajectory to trace — from Stein, to 
Rukeyser, bounce, into the present. 

EM: Then you really are looking at a female lineage, 
which is pretty amazing. 

FR: And one that is acute in terms of language 
experimentation and political experimentation. 
All these different registers of formal and social 
play with both identity and poetry. So how do 
you address yourself to a present, contemporary 
avant garde? 

EM: I like the temi. It’s a little pedantic, but if I’m 
not that, what am I? “Experimental” has a much 
more tentative sound to me than “avant garde.” I 
always think of Bob Perelman saying that “experi- 
mental” sounded to him like you have some test 
tubes and a white lab coat and you might just blow 
up the science building. Bernadette Mayer always 
liked the word and used it. 

FR: “Avant garde” has that military connotation. 
You meant to blow up the science building. 



EM: Yeah. You had to! It's like “queer.” It’s taking 
on a term of contempt and saying, “No, I’m proud. 
I’m proud to be avant garde.” I might feel the same 
way about the name “New York School.” 

FR: Well, how does the avant-garde relate to your 
choices as a writer? How important is it for you 
to theorize what language is, or what it does, on 
its own terms? Do you ponder the difference 
between, say, a word as a transparent sign for a 
real thing versus a word as simply a sound-clus- 
ter that’s independent and irreducible? 

EM: I don’t know. 1 think language is frightening. 
I experience it both of those ways at various points, 
often in the same piece of writing. 

you can name a cloud in Latin 

you can name a wind 

in Shakespeare 

when “it” soliloquizes 

do we turn & whisper 

bill speaks 

I like the crunch of 

Rosie’s jaw on 

science diet 

the caw of her 

throat but 

my language tends 

to personalize 

in the Rain 

— “Sullivan’s Brain” 

FR: Language is protean, and inevitably it flips 
back and forth from literal to abstract? The flips 
are organic? 

EM: Yes. Part of what’s fun is to keep distorting 
what it is I think I’m doing. Like metaphorical writ- 
ing, for example. I think of myself as not a meta- 
phorical poet. That’s part of how I define my work. 
But at extreme moments of personal devastation, 
I might write an incredibly metaphorical poem as 
almost the only way out of some bad feeling. So 
even the very things that I think I don’t do some- 
times seem to be the cure for what I’m needing to 
move. Like the way rhymes seem to be dripping 
with irony, so you use them. 

FR: Say more about what you mean by metaphor. 




AND so IT ALWAYS SEEMED TO 
ME THAT IF I COULDN'T THINK 

OP anything else to do I 

COULD HAVE A C0A1IC STRIP. 



COMIC STRIPS GOT SVNDICATER 
AND YOU COULD MAKE A 
LIVING THAT WAV. 




PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 I PA! . 




EM: “Metonym” is an important word for me. I’m 
endlessly paddling around the word and thinking 
about what it means in my writing and in other 
people’s writing. Gertrude Stein being metonymic 
with “a rose is a rose is a rose.” It seems like a 
filmmaker’s temt, a prose temt. Metonym is about 
proximity — an open universe, not a closed one. In 
O'Hara’s movie, it’s the car. Sort of a non-literary 
way of being literary. 1 use my own name in my 
stories because rather than inventing some sym- 
bolic name for my narrator, I use a real piece of 
me. I think of New York School poets as met- 
onymic as opposed to metaphoric. 

FR: Metaphor says, "This thing equals that one, 
this is similar to that.” Whereas metonym just 
places things in proximity without directing the 
relationship. Or at least that’s the argument I’ve 
heard. Does that fit with what you’re saying? 
The metaphor feels closed? 

EM: It feels sweet. Sentimental. And it also seems 
hierarchical, that’s what 1 think about most. As 
soon as you've got comparison there’s a sense of 
beauty or godliness, an ideal that makes me un- 
comfortable. An inside and an outside. Within the 
poem and in tlie world. The metonym is travelling. 
Repetition is metonymic, in that a word always 
changes in relation to what it’s next to. 

... Its beauty is 
beyond me. 1 start 
backing my car up 
you girls & your structuralism 
post haste have taught 
me so much. The angty’ 
dog shaking shaking 
the metonc’mic 
bird. Not daughter 
but slaughter. 

— “Sullivan’s Brain" 

FR: So in the moment, as you're placing one thing 
next to another, what tuning fork are you listen- 
ing to? How do you build a poem? 




Writing is just making a mark. 
It's your mortality, your need to 
exist. It is probably totally linked 
to feeling endangered. 



EM: I think what I follow are the edges of 
attention itself. Something, usually a little 
piece of language, starts me — it locks in 
and seems to open some file in my mind 
that’s been agitated into speech. It feels 
like a kind of unwrapping. I have a strong 
experience of dictation. I’ve always felt 
that writing the poem is listening. I’ve 
talked about this many times but I’ve never 
found a satisfying way to express it be- 
cause I'm saying a lot of different things and they 
all feel the same. 1 feel like I’m drawing. I’m pay- 
ing attention to something, and some part of me 
someplace is doodling, but it’s no real place and 
the only thing that’s really getting done is this nice 
kind of printing that I love. I’m always very into 
my materials, and 1 usually use a little notebook. 
The size of the notebook often dictates tlie size of 
die lines. I get diese at a stationer^' store on Avenue 
A. Mosdy I feel I'm experiencing a kind of tension 
release that feels curt and tough. 1 don’t know too 
much about it while it’s going on. There’s a litde 
bit of the obliviousness of sex that feels really in- 
telligent to me about it. The language is one I've 
learned, that I know and have developed. 1 learned 
to write poems from other poets. The more po- 
etry I read the more tricks and disciplines, the more 
ways to couch the line I’ve learned. I’ve learned 
about tension. But it is some inner singing that’s 
going on. It feels like drawing, it feels like illustra- 
tion. There’s this intangible thing that must be 
drawn somehow, and I’m doing it in words. 
There's a picture that’s unfolding in some way. I 
feel very controlled about sound and length. I can 
feel that viscerally, and 1 don’t know its source, of 
course. Except probably the history of all the po- 
etry I’ve ever heard. And the size of my experi- 
ence. 1 have an economy, a metabolism or energy 
flow that’s mine. Sometimes I think the length of 
the poem is a given before the poem even begins. 
So it’s a matter of not wasting myself, so that I 
keep giving the poem some rope so it can keep 
coming. 1 can feel when I go into unnecessary tribu- 
taries and rivulets, and think, ‘ooh, bad one.’ Then 




I’ll flash back to the point where it was alive and 
keep going. Something clearly is being spooned 
out that I have to follow. My model of it is sort 
of tightrope walking in the dark and trying to feel 
my balance. It’s tlrat sense when you’ve finally got- 
ten good at something, like driving a car. A bicycle. 
It becomes one witli my body. 1 know how to shift 
my weight, how to move, and I always feel that 
too in relation to content. There’s a gradient I’m 
trying to follow and I have to keep shifting to keep 
up with it. It’s the unknown, it’s the landscape I’m 
negotiating. Every skill I’ve got is going into that, 
not paying too much attention to it, but knowing 
when I’m connected. 

FR: It’s amazing how similar the descriptions 
become. 

EM: Poets talking about what they’re doing? 

FR: Yeah. Radically different work that seems to 
be made through similarly mysterious processes. 

EM: The difference comes from who you are, and 
how you read. It’s that thing when you walk into 
a room full of people you don’t know, and how do 
you keep meeting that kind of person? You go 
through all these relationships and you think, how 
did 1 know that this was another one of t/;c///? How 
you find work that speaks to you. Poetry comes 
from poetry. When I teach that seems like all I can 
give people, just piles of influence. That list comes 
to be, really, what defines you as a poet. Out of all 
that mess you start making fresh leaps, which are 
about the fact that you have pulled together this 
strange bunch of influences. Other subject mat- 
ters, like visual art, are important. Going into a 
completely other territory and thinking hard about 
it gives you something to bring back to poetry. 

I remember Jimmy Schuyler years ago, looking at 
a copy of this poetry publication. Jimmy himself 
was on the cover, and I’d had a number of poems 
rejected by them, so I was like, “Do you like this?” 
And he said, “Well, I think anything that’s all po- 
etry is pretty boring, don 't you, babe?” What strikes 
me as academic in poetics, for anybody of any 
stripe, is the idea that poetry is the only thing you’re 
looking at or hearing. That seems barren. 

FR: So the poem has to be sort of promiscuous 
with other arts? 

EM: We as poets often don’t get those kinds of 
experience. We don’t always get out of our jerky 
little circles, night after night standing around at 
the same readings. A lot of my fomiative poet-ex- 
periences have been accidents. When I got sober in 
the '80s, I needed a job. I mean, I’d had millions of 
jobs but I needed to do something that looheil like 
a job. They were looking for a director of the Po- 
etry Project, and that was sort of perfect, because 
I was qualified. So I went through that particular 



PAGt 28 I PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 





hell of being the poet directing the poetry organiza- 
tion — and what a nightmare. What 1 learned about 
poetry in those two or three years was astonishing, 
because every poet is the only poet. 

FR: On the level of interpersonal politics, you mean? 

EM: Yeah, but also the isolation of the poet’s 
position, within the poetry community and outside 
of it. How poetry is perceived by other institutions 
and other art worlds. P.S. 122 was in its heyday 
then. The Poetry Project had been hot in the ’60s 
and ’70s, and 1 quickly got this idea that most 
institutions have ten years — then you become an 
institutioti rather than a movement. P.S. 122 was in 
that hot time. So just because 1 was the Director 
of the Poetry Project, they invited me to come and 
read at their benefit. 1 didn’t want to be 
embarrassed droning in front of these dancers and 
performers, so it behooved me to memorize a 
poem. A perfomiance is keyed to live rhythms, 
and even if the poem is already written, the poet 
can be improvising, working with when they stop 
and start, with the silence. The most important 
piece in poetry, it seems to me, is silence. That’s 
your grip. When will I say my next word, how 
long do I hold this pause. There's very little 
vocabulary for those performative questions in 
poetry, but 1 think we all use them intensely. So I 
stood up and recited, and 1 received so much back. 
After that I got more into that world. They used 
to do field trips — there’d be me, a dancer, a 
performance artist, maybe a film, and they’d take 
us to the Brooks Museum in Memphis or the 
Walker Art Center or someplace. To be that poet 
was so much fun. It was like being in a traveling 
circus, and it seemed that was how poetry should 
be. Not exclusively, but to be in a context next to 
other arts and be given an audience as one of an 
array of live offerings. To have the opportunity to 
be an entertainment for a change. 

Like many others 1 became an artist. I choose not to dwell 
on that cultural accident. Let’s say 1 have always been bril- 
liant in the realm of play. 

— “Light Warrior," Chelsea Cirls 




FR: In a way, as you said before, what you perform 
in your work is the character “Eileen Myles.” 
There’s a particular universe of details that are hers. 
Speaking in the accent of Arlington, Mass., or having 
this experience of alcoholism, or of the downtown 
scene in these particular decades, or of being Irish 
Catholic, or a lesbian. These very specific 
autobiographical, demographic cues — and yet all 
these juicy details don’t necessarily coalesce into 
character. Stylistically they function as a cascade 
of textures more than a narrative. It’s like the line 
from Artaud you’ve taken as the epigraph in Cool 
For Yon, “jamais real, toujours vrai.” In your work 
this figure called Eileen Myles may always be true, 
but she’s never real. So I wonder if you could talk 
about those details, and your use of those markers 
of individual life. 

EM: They seem part and parcel with why 1 write. 
Writing is just making a mark. It’s your mortality, 
your need to exist. It is probably totally linked to 
feeling endangered. Arlington, lesbian, et cetera — 
I’m just constructing a monument to those things. 
But, 1 guess because I’ve come up in a sophisticated 
art-making culture, some other part of me knows 
that’s not enough. “I want to talk about myself 
and say that I exist and these are the details I am 
made of.” Okay, but how can you keep doing that 
again and again? How can you keep living a life 
every single day, take the next step forward, or 
bear weather, or continue to speak. There’s a 
tremendous challenge, to take that whole sea of 
familiar details and make them flow and shift. How 
can you keep renewing the autobiographical 
impulse. I’m completely in love with doing that. It 
seems so dangerous. Dangerous in a bad-art way. 
How to be incredibly — I want to say self-serving, 
though that’s not exactly true. Self-deploying? 

If I focus on the part of me that's divine — and smeared, 
well that feels real to me. 

— “Candlelight,” catalog essay 
for the exhibition, “Message to Pretty" 

Also, there’s a lot of class stuff in the internal 
voice that says, “Don’t think you’re so special.” 
In some ways my whole art impulse derives from 
saying, “I know I’m not special.” My exaltation 
comes because I’m female, because of my class 
background — my parents didn’t go to college — and 
because in so many ways I shouldn’t be making 
art. My work is inherently defiant. I can go on and 
on, and I feel like I’m digging a hole by giving more 
autobiographical justifications for why it’s true and 
necessary, but it just is. 

When I was a kid I could draw. That was my tal- 
ent growing up, that was what I was good for. 
And so it always seemed to me that if I couldn’t 
think of anything else to do I could have a comic 
strip. Comic strips got syndicated, and you could 
make a living that way. But the problem was that 
I could never draw the same drawing again. It 
seemed to me that you had to develop a character 
and draw the same drawing again and again and 
again, and then you could be alive. 

FR: Because you’d have a reliable vehicle to get 
yourself from frame to frame. 



EM: Right. Which is exactly what I’m doing. 
Except in words. My vehicle, my cartoon, 
coincided with say, Warhol and the soup can, or 
Interview magazine, these really boring interviews 
with people saying “Um.” I thought ‘Wow, boring. 
Great!’ Warhol’s movies, people just talking — 
pouring all that detail into poetry. 

FR: So that character becomes the way you 
continue to reinvent autobiography? You have a 
character you can keep drawing the same way in 
different scenes? 

EM: Yes. Totally. I don’t think 1 ever thought that 
until now, but it’s true. Of course, there are cer- 
tain ways I didn’t know who 1 was until I devel- 
oped that character, so it gets a little dicey. Really 
the character is more firm than I am. It’s weird 
when people address you like you’re your work — 
and I guess that I of all people should be my work, 
because I’ve kind of created this voice that talks 
me through my life. So of course it’s easy to get 
up and do her in a reading. You know, because I 
know what she sounds like. Again, it’s the comic 
strip. I die for the printing in cartoon speech 
bubbles. As visual notation it has the kind of rigor 
and excitement I experience when I’m writing. 
It’s just that, for me, the pictures are invisible — 
the poem is purely the balloons, and the balloons 
are infinite. 

Frances RichanI is a f’oet and critic who writes 
frei]nently about conteini>orary art. She is Non-fiction 
Editor of the literary journal Fence and divides her 
time between New York City and Provincetown. 

Josh Nenfeld is the co-creator of the alternative comic 
hook Keyhole, 




PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 I PAGE 29 



TOGO HOME 



EILEEN MYLES 



I MIGHT BE MAKING THIS UP, but the house I grew up in 
only cost my parents $13,000. It seems so cheap for a house, 
even a house in Arlington, even a house right off Arlington 
Center, at the end of a dead end street. Even a house with a 
sub shop on the comer, and a dry cleaners opposite that. My 
house you had to cross the train tracks to get to. To watch the 
Boston & Maine railroad clank by in the morning and those 
men reading papers going to work. It was so sad to learn that 
those men weren't coming from Maine, but Lexington, the 
next town over. But I didn't learn that for years, not until 1 was 
in college at the University of Massachusetts where I learned 
facts like that. In a state University you learn about your roots, 
what you've been seeing all your life. 

I was afraid of our house. Not like my brother who saw it 
once from Lombard Street, which was essentially the back, 
and there it was, bright as a moon, my house from the other 
side. It made Terry sick, it made me happy, that there was an 
"out.” Somewhere I could stand and look at our house. My 
brother resisted this point of view, 1 thought it was 
hope. Our house was so cheap because of what 
happened in it. To the two girls who once lived in 
the room, my sister and mine. It's amazing to think 
that we knew. 

Mrs. Lobrino lived downstairs. It was a two 
family house, and we bought it and she was al- 
ready there, a link to the past. VVe bought it and 
she didn't leave her home. We left her tliere. I don't 
think she died. She was there for a little while. 

She had see-through curtains different from ours 
on her door. She was an older woman, probably a 
widow and she became my mother’s friend be- 
cause my mother instantly became a daughter to 
women of the right age, she w'ould be their younger friend. 
And they would give her things and show her things. Next 
door were the Aulenbachs and Mr. Aulenbach who was quite 
bald gave my mother the first red rose of the season. I seem to 
remember it that way, and 1 don’t know how his wife felt who 
was well and alive. They had a white trellis crawling with 
roses and this man would give a red rose to my mother and it 
would be part of her joy, of her sweetness. She was such a 
daughter, my mom. She was so perfect. Mrs. Lobrino gave us 
sauce. 

1 remember the foreign bowl of it. the deep orange red with 
big sausages bobbing, a meatball or two. She’d make too much 
and at some point she’d ship some up to us. The phone would 
ring. A black phone, all rounded and harsh, heavy and adult. 
My mother would pick it up. Terryeileeithrulgic ... would you 
go downstairs. I'd come up carrying it. It’d be a tureen, a really 
big bowl, pink Italian looking, with this tremendous foreign 
food dark orange bobbing. I can’t remember the woman’s face, 
1 remember the bowl, her handing it to me. I was looking 
around. 1 think Lobrino had a bun. 

• 

Behind our house, on the side that eventually led to 
Lombard Street, there was a yard. There was a big fence right 
below our second floor door, our back door, and there was 
those people's yard and their immense garden. And you know 
my mother was dropping it, putting down a pan on a rope and 
the people down there who she simply smiled at their garden 



said Genny would you like some swiss chard. She would. I remember that stuff. My 
mother liked to grow things and she was a fan of people who had roses and vegetables 
and liked to cook, they were old these people and they missed their families and my 
mother had one and we were endlessly receiving shipments of food from these people. 

I want you to get the hang of the house, where 1 lived from three to twenty one, 
eighteen years. Sort of internment, sort of beautiful. The house had an immense chest- 
nut tree in its yard and beyond that many houses and then the miracle of Spy Pond with, 
in its exact center, an island. Revolutionary spies hid there, we had been told. Everyone’s 
worlds are flooded with stories. Legends of the past. My town was so old and cool. A 
little wooden house sat there on the edge of the pond. You could see the pond frozen, my 
mother could watch us, skating. The characteristic of Arlington 1 know the most is our 
visibility. My place in her eye. Moving through my town, the overall sensation of mother, 
watching. At some point they knocked down the wooden house which 1 failed to men- 
tion was the Arlington Boys Glub. A source of distress for me. Where’s the Girls Glub I 
screamed. They flung up a larger structure, much larger and it was blue. They wrote the 
words in white type on its outside. Not just above the door. Arlington Boys Glub. It 
blocked my mother’s view of the pond and 1 could never look at that blue building 
without wincing at the crime, the erasure of girls. My mother felt bad because she couldn’t 
see the pond. Though we weren't skating anymore. 

What’s important is the sauce. The hands of the woman downstairs, her old seventy- 
year-old hands extending this meal to us. There may have been pasta too. There was. 
I don’t think she died in our house. 

I asked my mother once. I was sitting at her table. Did you learn to make this sauce 
from Rosie. She was my Aunt’s upstairs neighbor, in 
Somerville. Their house was a three-decker which they didn’t 
own, rented for years. Rosie was the landlady, the wife of 
the owner, Frankie. Their name was Marcone. I thought of 
sound. The smell of the hallway was theirs, the incredible 
odor of red tomato sauce, cheese and oil, the delicious stink 
of Italian food, my favorite, wafting, inhabiting, coming 
down. There were newspapers, there was linoleum, base- 
ball and yells. But mostly there were smells. My aunt’s sauce 
was derived from the methods of Rosie. And yours. Mom. 
Mrs. Lohriito. Of course, of course. She was proud of her in- 
dependence. Her learning from Lobrino. And Lobrino saved 
the girls. 

The people who owned the house before us were this 
woman and this man. The man was not the girls’ father and the woman worked nights 
and he would, you know, do things to the girls. They weren’t supposed to tell, he told 
them that, some kind of threat and they didn’t for a long time, they were like our age. Me 
and Bridgie’s. 1 just remember being eleven or twelve, and someone telling us about this. 
But eventually the girls told Mrs. Lobrino, who was probably handing them some sauce, 
which is better than a gun, which is like safety. They told her while she was giving them 
food, and she went inside and picked up the heavy black phone, I bet Mrs. Lobrino had 
the heaviest, and you didn’t even dial, you just said give me the police, she did that and 
they came and the man went to jail. The girls were free. So I knew two things. This had 
happened in my room where 1 lived with my sister, we knew evil things had happened in 
the dark there and we could always feel it, we always could, and that sauce was good. 



Arlington Boys Club. 

It blocked my mother's 
view of the pond and I 
could never look at that 
blue building without 
wincing at the crime, 
the erasure of girls. 



E.xccri’ted from Gool for You, 
forthcoming from Soft Shull 
Press in November ZOOO. 



PAGE 30 I PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 



DOUG PADGEH, UNTITLED, 1997 



from 



Skies 



b y 



e i I e e n 



m y I e s 



You think it’s one color but it’s not. Closer and closer the folds 
appear not a deeper blue grey but a heavier one and finally just 
inches above the trees it’s a small bright seam full of smoke, not 
really bright but allowing the day as much as it needs. 



There’s this gesture where one part of god is pointing at the other 

part. The fingers of the sky, a day diving down a hill in which you feel accepted. 

All the sex radicals and the buildings, brown and grey and green 
tipped on Columbus Day heading to Liberty and I saw a yellowish 
sky probably dirty and blue scooped clouds with a thin plane 
slipping through like a tiny neon fish in my aquarium when I was 
ten. The fish pokes through a series of brighter white and pale blue 
veils of sky it’s the bouncing ball of my eye. Grabs of smoke, 
glistening balls of clouds so still and just hovering over the knotty 
landscape of buildings popping up. Amd something chimed as we 
move through the water. 





Excerfned from Skies, 
forthconiing from Black 
Sfmrow Press. 



PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 I PAGE . ' 



There are the 
stripes of 
my day 
the lines 
that cross 
the streets 
that carry me 




m- 





the knowing language 
of the 

almost night 
the cough 
of the throat 
the pressing 
blue 

I’m pressing 
through 



Wickety morning 
my hand 
can write 
the shivenng 
metal of 
black spade 
leaves jutting 
out from 
the morning 
pond 

it's like 
my dogs 
talk to the 
water, my 
lowered head 
appreciates 

then the 
imgling 
shift a 
lull & 

a distant dove 
No goose 

There isn't 
more but 
the v\'ind 
rules the day 
on childhood 
pond 1 was 
never alone, 
the horses 
& the sexy 
teenagers 

it’s empty 
aching beautiful 
lonely pond 
now 



PAGE 32 I PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 



the reeds 1 
thought I’d 
get back 
to are 
still, but 
their chewing 
has a 

nutty hollow 
sound, the 
he he he 



of goose 
geese 

that’s right 
hit me on 
the shoulder 
with a sign 
of my impending 
death, 

Yellow Leaf, 







The whole mess 
of it troubles me. 

The sketchy little 
lumps, they seem 
inspired by the 
area the moods 
& clumps of trees 
take, climbing up- 
wards, it just goes 
on its side, and 
fills a lavish 
area dead on, 
it seems wolvish 
the appetite of 
this colony. It's 
moving after all 
and the boat 
is plowing into 
grey, heaping 
piles of it on 
the horizon, we 
seem to be very 
right, and 

that’s our immediate 
future, hungry 
grey not blue. 

Doing the sky has 
supplanted my 
need for photographs. 
It sits, the camera, 
like a dark little 
plug in my bag, Tire 
sky meanwhile 
is a sad blue green 
just an inch of it. 
Mostly full over that 
a thin coarser ripple 
of grey with thin 
tears of a brighter 
blue above. But we 
still go right and 




there is an arc in 
the sky now, a 
big blue one. It’s 
my hope & a 
bird flies through it 
and there’s the 
flag whapping in 
its breeze, 
the whirligigs in 
the crows nest 
twirling & we see 
houses and trees 
the oily water, 
red cranes, where’s 
my friend Lorraine 
and a hint of 
garnet is in 

the cloud overhead 
There’s clouds 
painted on clouds 
is rusty russet 
the sky now, smooth 
like old cream. There’s 
a small piece of 
dark blue over 
there to the right 
but the boat 
keeps turning away. 
Our moments are 
so damn fast the 
turn of the boat 
my clumsy pen 
my heart beating 

there’s a sweet 
white one like 
a big fish, one 
end just seems 
to end — get 
just a beat away, 
a faint vertical 
neighbor vaguer 
or a funnel of 
moving smoke 
like industry or 
the world 

0 

a cloud 
is a crack 
in a life 
a prayer 
of white 



A Young Swan 


the name 


and the 






letter man 


I am ready 


the plane 


was Dad 




contest 




I a young 




and 1 


swan 


my submission 


the 




was cranberry 


little poem 


full horizon 


skies 




fading 




a frequent 




the message 


flyer 


1 smell man. 


was if 




ham 


you put 


looking 


the aging 


it in 


at a 


animal 


the mail 


cloud 


there she is 


it’s yours 


glad to 


down there 




be awake 


in her 


c’mon 




yellow 




aiming 




fat books 


for Rose 


boat 


full of 






free things 


« 


a perfect 






serve 


and career 


Crazy Limb 




brochures 




the scratches 




If letters were 


of white 


1 pray 


as important as numbers 







upon the 
water 

0 perfect 
cloud 

indivisible 

liberty, 

and over there 
less 

rosy 

like the sky 
leaves 
everything 
in the 
morning 

the tree 
less bliss 
of the 

sky, persistent 
hum 

These might 
be why 

1 die 

these 4 men 
we add 
up to 

something 

nose scrunch 

who won 



to the 
dead frequently 
since 
they pile 

up to 
me 

he would 
have brought 
my letter 
further 
than this 

to die 

with vacationing 
strangers 

look at Boston 
being diagonal 

my mother 

tilts 

along 

the purple 
sky arights 
itself 

the red buildings 
of Cambridge 

and today 
bright grey 

swan was 
the name 
of my street 



1 would begin 

to write clear 
the count matters 
words swirl 
in a meaning of marks 
marks count; school’s in 
always, how much is 
all. 1 want to know. 



Big harpoons 
of fish-shaped 
clouds 

she said 
perhaps 
your idea 
wil rise 
up again 

& it has: 

city-sky, 

half-sound 



Writing 

1 can 
connect 

any two 
things 

that’s 

god 



PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 i PAGE 33 



I 






teeny piece 
of bandaid 

little folded 
piece 

of bandaid 

I ran 
to the 
bathroom 



to see 
my face 







sometimes 
1 don't 
want to 
see my 
face in 

the mirror 

sometimes 
1 can't 
bear 

my thoughts 

sometimes 
1 can’t 
do anything 

but that’s 
okay 

bandaid 

book 

god 

that's 

right 

# 

Nameless 

don’t be rehearsing 
be doing 
it the first 
time 



suddenly 
a blue 
cloud 
is in 
the sky 

and then 
it's the 
sky 



PAGE 34 PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 



The Center 

This is a place 
where we can 
just sit 
flesh of a 

Caucasian coloured 
building 



the trees 
you’ve 
ever known 
in a long 
squirt 
of light & 
it’s still 
not night 



now don’t 
change your 
mind 

it’s Allen St. 

the sky is 
my favorite 
color 

well one of 
them 



it’s just something 
in temis 
of color 
blue, certainly, 




f 



it's a very 
wide cut 
above dark 
but this 
blue has 
such certainty 
never more 
blue than 
this & 

one 
that is 
soft 

that’s right 
now lie 
down 
while I 
see it through 

the trees, 
the tickling 
hands of 
my friends 
my favorite 
in the 
world 

I love 
the ite 
of favorite 

when it 
comes to 
favoring 
liking & 
loving & 
choosing all 
your life 
and 

one sky 
meets all 



the lights 
are neon 
& we get 
to rest 



m 





m f 




that’s it 
my animal 
this broad 
stoop is 
a raft 
1 will 

continue to 
be young 
until I’m 
famous 

and snug 
in this 
exactitude 
the act 
of waning 
choosing 

I'll write 
while it’s 
light. 

¥ 

My mind’s 

pretty 

juicy 

pretty crayon- 

y 

Full moon. 

4 

Annie Dillard 

Slippery when wet, 
I’ll never forget 

¥ 

Itself 

The television’s 

blaring in art 
college & I’ve 
just eaten 

the cake 
I smelled 



in the gallery 
one boy 

bends to another 
outside 

smokers 

1 should take everything 
back 

my smokes & my youth 
but 1 can’t 
but look at y 
the small one (in youth) 
its tail 

bending in to another 

kingdom. 1 

like all 
of it 



She above, who was 

briefly rose, orange 

the smokers 
are gone 

and 1 seem to be 
thinking of 
the ocean 

and that must 
be home 

a cap a hood 
of it 

the sky has a 

hat, a darker 

husband; She’s 
everywhere 

crossing the industry’s 
vines, its persistent 
wires that 
hum across america 

& 1 do work: 

1 sing of you your 
splashiness, your 

highness your majesty 

smokey blue sky. 



cloud like an elbow 
your fair inverse 



they don’t stop eating 
everywhere women work 
their butts off 



crook just a bore 



tapping into the station 



a weird California 
tree. No name, the 



1 thought I’d look 
I’d arrive writing 



extended bones 
sprinkling 
of triangle leaves 

at Otis, the 

name of the school 



hoo 

yes I’d arrive writing 
hoo 

you arrive in the bones in my chest 
no small world, no large 







there, they’re 
smoking again 

& 1 want, 1 want 

my yearning 

has me look up 
again your pinks 
& your blues 

this simple day in 
February is dying 

I’ve got 20 years 
or 2. The bars of 
the coke machine 
reflecting 
in the 

window, seem 
glued to 
the girders 

outside, where 1 go 

* 

Visitor's Center 

The sky 
pale blue 

& 1 

applaud 
the song 
of my 
car 



mastodon bones 
her fingers are in her mouth 
his phone to his ear 
our sleepy civilization 
1 would say an american poet 
that’s all 1 would 
be known as 



sits. 




And no one holds the camera 

hold & look 
carry your bags 

the scream, the absolute scream of his 

cardboard 

food 

what could be more fun 
than getting killed 
this absolute way 

the British people never 
talk when 1 need 
them 

they put all this fuss around their vowels 
it is an island accent 
the lap of language 



useless 



1 suppose the next one will be the american 
planet 

planetary, that’s what 1 want to 
be, oh my desire to live till 
1 die to be known as living, casting 
this fucking shadow 
let me fall on you 
be in my dark 



C a t 

1 think of you as scratched 
bristles hit 

zooming a train squeaks into Trenton 
pair of fags viciously feeding 



sheer blue 

so the sky is my hat. 

oh sheer blue 
so the sky be my hat. 



PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 I PAGE 35 



s 



k 



y 



f 



S 



the 



- Eileen Myles: My name is 

Eileen Myles and I’m the 
Schoolhouse's poet this sum- 
mer and this is a panel called 
“Sky's the Limit.” This 
Helen Wilson. Helen is an amazing painter, lately 
especially of skies. John Kelly, aka Joni Mitchell, 
aka John Kelly, is a singer, director, actor, perfomrer. 
Jack Pierson is a lot of people’s favorite artist. 1 think 
that’s the simplest way to put it. Frances Richard is 
a poet and an art critic and a brilliant conversation- 
alist and thinker. We had dinner a few weeks ago 
and I'm still rearranging my mental bookshelves 
with what she spoke of that night. Tliere’s one more 
person coming and that is Molly Benjamin. She is a 
fishemian and a writer, a columnist for the (ki/’C 
Cod Times and she also writes about books for the 
.Vc'u' York’ Times. 



Most of my adult life I’ve lived in New York City 
so I continually look up and see stone and that’s 
been my adult experience quite a lot except — 
mostly in the spring or fall — I'd come to a city block 
and look from the east side to the west side and 
see a pretty color, like pink. This long vertical piece 
of sky would be my experience of it. So a couple 
of years ago when 1 started living for a serious 
amount of time in Provincetown, 1 was over- 
whelmed with this skv thino and it’s become a 
new character in my life. I’m a poet and I’ve been 
writing at it and on it and around it and through 
it. Then 1 noticed when I went back to New York 
it v\-as there again and it’s become this endless 
source of inspiration. 

Hie people who are here — I’d like to know what 
they think about just about anything, so 1 would 
also like to know what they think about the 
sky. But of course the whole idea of inviting 
people to talk about a particular thing creates 
a public question, and it seems to me that 
when you give people a question in public 
what they always answer is whatever it is they 
were thinking about themselves personally. 
People quickly Cvc'ist things to their own de- 
vices. So this is sort of a two-pronged panel. 

Like many of us I’ve been on panels and to 
panels, and often they ask these painful 
brainy questions and you have to go into a 
spinal tw'ist just to unload the question be- 
fore you begin. I often wondered why there 
aren’t soft topics, and the sky is one of them. 

I don't know where this panel is going at 
all and that’s what’s exciting to me and I’m 
really glad you came for it. 



PAGE 1!- PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 



Jack Pierson: So I’m here to 
talk about the sky vis-a-vis a 
guy. I’m going to read you a 
little something and see if any- 
body might take a guess about 
who is being wntten about. It says, "When he ap- 
pears at the stage door, a thin young man who is 
24 years old surrounded by ushers and body 
guards, the cries of the crowd reach a new pitch. 
His clothes have been tom from his body, his face 
scratched. Only the bnite force of his guardians 
gets him through the press of humanity and into 
his waiting automobile. There are long frighten- 
ing minutes before the car is able to move, leaving 
a wake of mnning teenaged females. Some stumble 
and fall. Many more sit and sob uncontrollably at 
the curbside as the limousine speeds out of sight.” 
Audience members: jouessing] Michael Jackson 
... Sinatra ... Eivis ... Ricky Martin. 

JP: We’re all pretty familiar with Ricky Martin hys- 
teria right now. Well, if you can, imagine that trans- 
ferred to a point in 1 95 1 to this guy this is written 
about, whose name is Johnnie Ray. This name 
could have been just as easily shouted out, espe- 
cially between Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley, 
which is where Johnnie Ray finds himself lost, as 
opposed to remembered, because, unbelievably 
enough at that time, he was busted in a men’s 
room for lewd and lacivious acts. Just like George 
Michael, but in 1951. He had just made a movie 
with an Irving Berlin score, with Marilyn Mon- 
roe, Mitzi Gaynor, Danny Kaye. He was in a po- 
sition to be a huge star. He had the number one 
record and the number two record on whatever 
the charts were at that time. You’ve heard his 
music, but unless you’re really old, or really 
weird like me, you wouldn’t know who he is. 

I’m not kidding about the hysteria. This was 
the first time since Frank Sinatra that girls in 
particular expressed this freaked-out hysteria 
in the presence of someone. How this relates 
to my work — there are things that happen that 
perhaps you don’t notice because they just 
keep staying around. Like cars and telephones. 
But at this time no one had ever not stood at 
the microphone exactly still and sang. He was 
the first one to grab the microphone. He was 
the first one to drop to his biees at the micro- 
phone, to wander around the stage with the 
microphone. He was a freak. He wasn’t hand- 
some. He wasn’t beautiful. He was deaf — he 
wore a hearing aid. Younger people whose 
fandom includes Morrissey remember a pe- 
riod when Morrissey of the Smiths wore a 




Limit 



hearing aid — that was because of Johnnie Ray. He 
was praised more in England than here because 
the publicity didn’t follow him that far, so he al- 
ways retained a certain stardom in England. When 
you hear this song it’s unfathomable to believe that 
anyone ever freaked out to it or that it was consid- 
ered the roots of rock and roll. 

And so the way he comes into this sky thing is 
that the number two song, which was the flip 
side of the number one song, was called “Little 
White Gloud That Cried.” I’m going to play it 
for you and see if you can imagine. 

[plays tape] “I went walking down by the river/ 
feeling very sad inside/and all at once I saw in 
the sky/the little white cloud that cried./He told 
me he was very lonesome/and no one cared if he 
lived or died." 

The next song, “Cry,” you’ll possibly know: 
[plays tape] “When your sweetheart sends a let- 
ter of goodbye/it’s no secret you’ll feel better if 
you cry.” 

Anyway, “cry” was his big thing. 

He sort of lost it. He came back from this trium- 
phant show at the London Palladium to the news 
of Elvis Presley. They asked him when he got off 
the airplane what he thought of Elvis Presley, 
because at this moment, having left America and 
come back, he was Elvis Presley, so to this ordi- 
nary question, he said, “WTiat is Elvis Presley?” He 
really hadn’t heard about this thing that made him 
obsolete. 

Why am I talking about this as an artist? I guess I 
either grandiosely or pathetically identify with him 
as an artist or as a mishap. He went on in the ’60s 
to entertain at nightclubs. He had a lucrative life 
and his friendships were with the greats and people 
adored him and he sang this sort of lachrymose, 
sentimental stuff to cafe society. And before he 
was a hit he perfomied it in strip clubs or negro 
dinner clubs in Detroit and it just seems implau- 
sible to me that this little skinny freak with a hear- 
ing aid and a full face of makeup could hold the 
room in a situation like that with “Little White 
Cloud That Cried.” Four million sold. I’m always 
thrown by that “rose so high fell so far,” and the 
whole point of me telling you about this is that vis- 
a-vis that song I thought it was inTportant for me to 
let people know about something diey might not 
know about because of the constellation of the en- 
vironment at that time. 

Somebody told me that Johnnie Ray had a long- 
term boyfriend who still lives in Provincetown, 
who I haven’t met yet. It’s not like I’m some big 




(A panel discussion conceived and moderated by Eileen Myles, held at the Schoolhouse Center, Provincetown, August 8, 1999) 



Johnnie Ray freak. It’s not that I think he’s the 
world’s greatest singer. I went through a period of 
really worshipping him and the whole story of him, 
and made a lot of work around him, but I’ve also 
taken pictures of the sky and stuff like that and 
that’s why I’m here this evening. 

Frances Richard: As Eileen fore- 
saw, I’m just going to talk about 
what I’ve been thinking about, 
and it isn’t actually a thought but 
a sensation. Lately, when I ask myself, How do I 
feel? the answer is, I feel like a blowing curtain. 
And there is something very trite for me about this 
image. You can probably picture it. There’s the 
unseen but obviously open window, the unfelt but 
implied breeze, and there’s this sort of gauzy panel 
that bellies out and sucks back in. The window is 
bright but otherwise invisible; the curtain is long 
and down past the window’s knees. The cloth is 
pale and made of cotton, or perhaps silk, or mus- 
lin — which is a word that’s just the right mix be- 
tween pioneer women sewing undergarments and 
backstage at the theater. There’s something about 
the way the curtain moves, the kind of indolent, 
snaky way it moves, and it’s both thin and volup- 
tuous, enticing and bland. 

So I’ve been riffing on this image of the blowing 
curtain. I think it’s in the same family of tropes as 
a distant dog barking at night, or a radio coming 
very faintly through the wall. It’s kind of a 
readymade for melancholy. It’s a synecdoche — it’s 
the part standing in for the whole — for a certain 
kind of separation or longing that’s ambient; it’s 
not attached to any specific thing. Also, as an 
image, it has a summery, feminine, mildly erotic 
quality that makes it thoroughly commodifiable. 
It’s the kind of picture that sells natural soaps or 
full-spectrum lightbulbs, or a certain kind of novel. 
So I’m reluctant to take as my personal emblem 
something that could be on the cover of a Pottery 
Barn catalog, but it’s been appearing in my life 
recently as a kind of mnemonic device. 

The blank, glowing window and the responsive, 
see-through fabric have come to signify in my mind 
what I’ve been calling diaphany. Diaphany is the 
state or quality of being diaphanous. It’s both a 
physical and an emotional state, but mostly 
physical. This might sound very elegant but it’s 
actually much more trippy than pretty. As a 
physical feeling, it’s psychedelic and slippery; it’s 
the sensation of anxiety dreams. It masters you 
completely but it remains vague, and it has the 
special brutality only a very yielding thing can 
muster. It’s akin, maybe, to what the novelist Tim 



O’Brien describes as the experience of soldiers in 
the rice paddies in Vietnam. They would become 
convinced that out in the fog they were hearing a 
cocktail party or a stadium full of people. There’s an 
aggressive, sort of suffocating softness to diaphany, 
like being dosed in inappropriate circumstances. 
When diaphany grips you, you look at your arm 
and think. How odd, that looks just like someone’s 
arm. Or you hear yourself talking — this is 
happening to me right now — and there’s a 
transatlantic phone call delay inside you. Your brain 
proclaims. I’m going to say something now, and 
then there’s a long blank space, and then you hear 
something being said, which may or may not be 
the thing the brain initially geared up for. Earlier 
today I was imagining myself saying these words 
in this room and I was nervous, so I thought. Okay, 
visualize it — there’s going to be a mirror over here 
and people sitting there. And that, in fact, is what 
I’m seeing. I know that I’m in Provincetown and 
all of this is taking place right now. But what I’m 
feeling is I could just as easily be in Brooklyn, 
hallucinating. So location seems untrustworthy — 
location doesn’t feel reliably different from 
imagination. They’re both just textures. And that’s 
diaphany. It’s intrusively bizarre, but it’s covert. 
You can do everything you normally do — talk and 
eat and travel and show up at your appointments — 
but you’re sort of hydroplaning on this layer of 
insubstantialness or unreality. I would assume that 
everybody does this all the time, except that I never 
did it until recently. 

My grandmother, whom I was very close to and 
who raised me, died in Febmary. And her daugh- 
ter, my mother, died when I was a child. She 
was thirty-one when she died and I’m thirty-one 
now, and all of this probably has to do with my 
diaphany. If you read about mother-loss, or any 
Icind of trauma, you’ll read a lot of similar descrip- 
tion. Then it becomes like any phenomenon — once 
you start looking for it, you see it everywhere. So 
diaphany is related to what the impressionists do, 
and diaphany is at the core — though there is not 
core exactly, and that’s the point — but diaphany is 
Virginia Woolf; it’s Emily Dickinson. It’s the thing 
that avant-garde poetic theorists talk about when 
they say that “language is indeterminate.” You have 
the thing, and the name for the thing, and the twain 
shall never meet. The space in between is 
diaphany. And the Buddhists, too, are dealing with 
it when they say there is no self. If you do your 
striptease of the self and take away veil after veil, 
you’re not going to find some essential tmth; you’re 
just going to get nothing, and a pile of veils on the 



floor. And that’s good. It’s not that there are no 
borders, but they’re more permeable than we’ve 
been taught they’re supposed to be. Which is also 
why diaphany feels like drugs, and why it’s some- 
thing that feels like death. 

So I’m trying to get close to and be comfortable 
with this idea, this physicality. The minute after 
my grandmother died I put my fingertips — I was 
alone with her when she died— I put my finger- 
tips on her breastbone. And because her heart 
was perfectly still, the way it never is when some- 
body dies in film or on stage, I could actually 
feel my own pulse very clearly in my fingertips 
and thinking about this curtain image, I realized 
that this is exactly how a theatrical scrim works. 
Because there was no electricity coming thorugh 
her, this scrim that was her breastbone became 
opaque and just reflected me back. 

I had the idea as a child that the sky was a ceiling 
and I truly didn’t get why airplanes weren’t 
bumping into it. I thought God was behind it, like 
a store manager behind one-way glass. Shelley, in 
his elegy for John Keats, says, “Life, like a dome of 
many-colored glass,/Stains the white radiance of 
Eternity, AJntil Death tramples it to fragments.” 
Isn’t that beautiful — I know it by heart because 
somewhere I have a tape of Mick Jagger reading it 
to a concert crowd as an elegy for Brian Jones. My 
grandfather used to recite something driving down 
country roads at night and I don’t know if it’s 
Shakespeare or Omar Khayyam, and I can’t 
remember it exactly, either. But it would be a starry 
night, and the horizon would be sweeping out in 
a semicircle all around and he would murmur to 
us, “This inverted bowl we call the sky, 
whereunder” something-something “we live and 
breathe.” I like the moment at the end of the movie 
“The Truman Show,” when Truman tries to sail 
away from his TV existence and runs aground on 
the horizon like a pre-Copemican explorer, and 
the prow of his boat rips a hole right through the 
painted wall of the sky. If you add all these 
scattered pictures together, maybe the reason why 
my image of the undulating curtain is enticing is 
that implicit behind the curtain is just sky, total 
boundlessness, but the curtain makes a little screen 
between you and it, a veil, because boundlessness 
is hard to take otherwise. 

Molly Benjamin: One of the 

things I’ve thought about a lot 
is space travel, which didn’t ex- 
ist before our generation. I feel 

PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 I PAGE 37 





like as a culture, a community of Americans, we’ve 
been kind of ripped off from this fantastic stuff 
that's going on. When the first astronauts splashed 
down in the Atlantic, we all got out of school and 
went home to watch it on TV. The first thing that 
happened was die officials grabbed the guys and 
took them to Houston or wherever and debriefed 
diem. I kept waiting and waiting for these guys to 
talk to us about what they had seen, which of course 
diey were not allowed to do. So one of the first 
astronauts. 1 think it was Buzz AJdrin — when he 
splashed down he had grown a beard in space, 
which was part of our common culture anyway, 
people growing hair. He goes up in space, and it 
transfomis his life, and one of his responses was to 
not cut his hair or shave his beard. He managed to 
say that to the TV camera before he got pushed 
away to the debriefing chamber, and of course when 
he came out, he was all Mr. Corporate again. You 
heard little tidbits about what these guys did after- 
wards and it was amazing stuff. One of tiieni grew 
some kind of bug that eats the bugs in your garden. 
TTiey did really wiggy things, so you know it was 
transfomiing. And yet to this day we have gotten 
to hear squat. Not even from John Glenn, who’s 
got easy access. 1 suspect tiiat tiiat kind of thing is 
best told right away. 1 have a daughter and 1 could 
really talk about childbirth for the first year, but then 
it started fading. Every amazing experience fades — 
good or bad. Pain or happiness just goes away, kind 
of feels like you read about it once. 

Once I went to the Cape Canaveral Museum, which 
turned into an enormous hassle — lots of driving, 
zillions of people. I'm tiiinking it's going to be space 
art — you know those fantastic pictures of the rings 
around Saturn. Hubble up there. Well there's not 
one bit of art. pictures, nothing. It's a nuts and bolts 
tvpe of museum — it’s all hardware! That's what it 
is and it ain't worth going to. And that’s why they 
ought to put me in charge — or anyone in this 
room — of making the space museum. Where are 
those pictures? Challenger goes up — that was one 
of the most magnificent shared public tragedies. 
We all saw it. at least the replay, every schoolchild 
in America. Today we all remember Christa 
NfcAuliffe. but who were the other guys? And 1 
swear the media spends more time on Princess Di 
and lohn John Kennedy than it did on the Chal- 
lenger. And 1 would love to hear about the rocket 
that has a lady captain, which 1 think is cool. 1 also 
thought it was cool the first time 1 ran into a lady 
Coast Guard captain, so I'm easily impressed that 
way. 1 v\'ished they would just sit down and babble 
at us. "Oh my god did you see that?" I'm sure that's 
the kind of thing that comes out of their mouth in 
those little rooms in Houston. So that’s my rap 
tonight. Tlie sky's the limit. We’re playing around 
in space, and we're paying for it, the taxpayers. 
But we never get to hear about it, we never see 
the pictures. 




Helen Miranda Wil- 
son: I work from obser- 
vation, and I’ve been 
painting skies since I 
was in my twenties. I’m 
a lot older now, so I’ve 



PAGE 38 : PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 



been doing it for a long time. Skies are two things 
for me. One is, it is always there. Two is, that even 
in the middle of a pure-blue afternoon with no 
clouds and very little observable change, even on 
a day like that, it always changes. I have to stay 
open to that to paint. 

One day 1 was giving a presentation about my 
work to my students in the most abysmal base- 
ment classroom. Why do we spend money on 
those rocketships when a lot of students in this 
country don’t even have beautiful rooms to study 
ini' 1 think a lot of people feel that sky is like vaca- 
tion; it’s something you visit and project on. But 
it's not. It’s what we’re breathing into our bod- 
ies — all of us in this room. So 1 said something like 
this to the students, who had just seen a lot of 
projections of clouds at all different times of day, 
and I realized they were looking at these like you 
look at advertisements — as icons for what's out 
there and what you can't control, and not what's 
real to us. 

How many people besides people who fish — and 
they even listen to the weather box and figure 
they've got it covered with the gizmos — pay 
attention to what's going on outdoors? What’s 
really difficult for people is what they cannot pin 
down and control. I like what Frances said because 
1 realize that physiologically the only thing you 
can look at as far as you can see, is the sky on a 
blue day. The clouds look like they’re solid but 
they’re not, they're gas. What you can see is 
contiguous witli your body in a way that water isn't, 
because water you can control, while air goes into 
us and out of us all tiie time. And it's really frightening 
to tiiink about tiiat. In tiie '70s I would have given a 
feminist analysis and said tiiat men want to make it 
controllable, make it substantial. Now I don’t do 
that; now I think we’re all accomplices. 

That Johnnie Ray music came to me on a little 
white radio in Wellfleet in the '50s when I was 
very young. It came from Boston and the recep- 
tion was poor, so I could hear tiie friction of all 
that air. I can't believe you played that song. I 
get such a flashback. 

John Kelly: In case you’re 
wondering why I’m dressed 
this way — I’m doing my Joni 
Mitchell show over at Tropi- 
cal Joe’s, where the palm trees 
are. I’m kind of vacillating between being dressed 
like Joni, but not feeling like acting like Joni. Be- 
cause when I do, my voice goes up higher and I 
act pretty dumb and I sing pretty songs for you 
and I don’t feel like doing that so, um, I’m going to 
take this wig off. That was my plug for my show. 
There was recently a panel discussion in town at 
which they spoke about the validity of drag per- 
formance and whether it’s real theater. Some 
people were defending it and some were trying 
to keep it in a predictable place. At this point in 
my career I’m a performance artist. I make dance- 
theater pieces. The drag stuff is really only about 
five percent of what I do. The Joni piece has 
become like a cash cow in a way, for a denizen 
of the not-for-profit world, an attempt to pay 
off my credit card debt. The drag characters that 
I’ve chosen to portray have been the Mona Lisa, 




Joni Mitchell, and Barbette, who is a transvestite 
trapeze artist from Round Rock Texas who became 
the rage of Paris in the 1920s. He was Josephine 
Baker’s main rival. So my drag choices haven’t been 
typical choices. In temis of the “Sky’s the Limit” — 
when I first started doing the drag thing, it opened 
up this incredible vista to me. Anyway, I'm going 
to read an essay about that, “In Praise of Drag”: 
One of my earliest childhood memories is playing 
baseball with, and receiving boxing lessons from, 
my dad. I think he wanted me to be able to fend 
for myself. While alone in the basement of our 
house 1 recall dancing around to an old 78 rpm 
recording of Jane Powell singing “The Italian Street 
Song.” My early years were infomied by this con- 
flict; my responsibility to the “outer world” — 
sports, school, peer pressure; and my allegiance to 
my own “inner world” of imagination, discovery, 
nuance. My shyness was not innate; it was acquired. 
Growing up in tiie typical American cultural vacuum 
called Jersey City, 1 felt my sensitivity risked anni- 
hilation, so an internal dialogue seemed imperative. 

There were some flagrant but acceptable outward 
manifestations of this search for identity in a gen- 
der constricted world; they usually occurred on 
Halloween, which became even more important 
than Christmas. It was an event that could be 
planned, designed, and staged; I could be totally 
outrageous, publicly inhabiting other personae, even 
invading tiie colorful and infinitely more option- 
laden realm of the opposite sex. These early “drag” 
appearances fell under acceptable characteriza- 
tions — old lady, gypsy. In one case I metaphorically 
merged these two natures, the male and the female, 
into an early artistic statement reminiscent of 
Picasso’s bicycle seat and handle bar “deer head” — 
a football, sliced in half and connected with rope, 
became a brassiere. 

Then, as now, manifestations of drag have never 
been the result of my desire to change my sex. 1 
thoroughly appreciate what 1 was bom with, and 
have never had a desire to part with it, or to 
augment it in a “best of both worlds” scenario. As 
a boy I encountered the strictly prescribed options 
for a “normal” life: play sports, go to war, become 
a hero, get married, raise kids, (or become a monk, 
my choice). My youthful explorations of the nature 
of gender provided a refreshing escape from a 
constrained, expectation-laden existence. They 
eventually became a potent vehicle for challenging 
behavioral assumptions and venting my rage and 
emotions, through art. 

Out of high school, I embarked on a serious study 
of ballet and modem dance, and wound up doing 
a fair amount of performing. But a turbulent early 
retirement from the stage found me attending art 
school, studying drawing and painting. After I had 
completed my formal studies, 1 found myself liv- 
ing the life of the East Village bohemian artist, strug- 
gling financially, burning the candle, and rendering 
self-portraits while seated in front of a mirror. In a 
pretty confrontational manner 1 was attempting to 
record my inner world, and to express myself. 

In 1979, while sketching the crowd at a club in 
New York called the Anvil, I witnessed a perfomier 
in punk drag, named Tanya Ransom, lip-synching 
to recordings of the East Gemian Punk soprano 



Nina Hagen. This was my David 
Bowie encounters Iggy Pop moment, 
and in a flash I realized the 
significance: an active format for 
exhibiting the glimpses I’d had of my 
inner realm, but now in an outwardly 
visual, kinetic and dramatic manner. 

1 found in Tanya’s punk drag an art 
that challenged traditional cross 
dressing conventions. I had discovered 
a potent, and socially annoying 
theatrical tool. In 1979 drag had not yet 
come out of the closet and gone 
mainstream and homogenized, clown- 
like, and full of excuses and watered-down 
innuendo. 1 had seen the possibility of drag 
as theater, drag as art. 

1 returned to performing and gave birth to 
my female alter-ego, Dagmar Onassis. 

1 moved from painting my likeness on canvas 
to painting the three-dimensional contours 
of my face and body. In this process of 
performing, an enomrous reservoir of rage was 
vented, the closets were cleaned out, and 1 
feverishly embraced drag as a potent fomi of 
expression. 

1 found I had a voice and proceeded to wield it 
as a prominent weapon in my theatrical arse- 
nal. My renditions of mezzo soprano arias, black 
spirituals, and the music of Joni Mitchell — per- 
formed in either male, female, androgynous or 
historical drag — functioned as “audio” drag to the 
visual and kinetic counterpart. As I challenge my- 
self I aimed to challenge my audience. 1 became 
addicted to this, to vibrating high. I came to re- 
gard singing as a challenging and vigorous way to 
publicly express my inner life. The constant task 
of the vocal artist to navigate freely between the 
chest register and the head or falsetto register, to 
negotiate the “break” in the voice, has existed for 
me both actually and metaphorically as a way to 
balance my “selves,” to reconcile the typically male 
with the traditionally female. 

Drag in public spaces can turn any function into 
an event. The aroma of travesty is pungent, 
immediately discernible; it can transform a room 
and provide for a unique “frisson,” absurd and 
dangerous. It has also functioned for me as an 
effective “Fuck you.” While in Drag I have eaten in 
restaurants, taken a few “walks on the wild side,” 
perhaps gotten a first hand glimpse into how 
women might be treated by men, and played a 
trick on certain people — my youth and androgyny 
making for a successful illusion. But these forays 
into predictable drag turf eventually gave way to 
my desire to transcend issues of gender and to 
arrive at a kind of abstract beauty, an all- 
encompassing vehicle for expression, and a potent 
dramatic navigational option. The drag is a lure, a 
seduction of sorts, especially since most who 
encounter it feel that they know it, what its lifestyle 
and sexual implications are, and what sort of 
performance it will foster. Drag rarely seems to be 
equated with the promise of talent, though there 
have always been exceptional manifestations of 
the Drag Queen. 



You drag you make a mark. Drag has 
never been about confusion, gender 
or otherwise, in my experience. It has 
always functioned as a sublimely spe- 
cific vehicle for expression, a beautiful 
surprise, a red scarf waved in the face 
of a bullish society unwilling to witness 
the values between the black and the 
white. 

EM: Thank you. I’m totally stunned by 
how many of the relationships between 
what people are talking about here have 
to do with conversations I’ve been hav- 
ing all week long. I feel like I’m in one big 
conversation. There’s something about the 
art of the voice quivering and thinking 
about the astronauts and it seems some re- 
lationship to the female body, going into 
space and — should I try to complete this sen- 
tence? Anyway, I was wondering if anyone 
up here wants to cross-talk. 

FR: I guess the thing that resonates most to 
me, John, is the way you talked about getting 
across the split in your voice and making it 
seem natural as a performer to be able to get 
back and forth across that divide, making it 
seem deliberate. It seems we’ve all been talking 
about some sort of divide. Helen talking about 
her art class, the sky and the basement; having 
travel to space, but then not getting to hear about 
it in the press; and my diaphanous panel and 
Johnnie Ray being trapped between Elvis and 
Sinatra. One of you said, “The sky is out there and 
the air is right here,” and that’s interesting. At what 
point does it stop being air and become sky? And 
then when it’s inside of you it becomes breath, 
and it’s all the same thing. 

EM: Especially that moment when it stopped on 
the chest in your piece. Which reminded me of 
when you have a mirror in your apartment and 
you take it away and you keep returning to that 
place for your reflection and it’s gone. I think a 
still chest echoes that. 

JP:I once heard that when you look at an ocean 
where the sky meets the water, the sky is sixty 
miles away. 

HMW: Most of the time we’ve all been on earth 
we’ve known what it’s like to look at the horizon, 
people who live near big water like the ocean or a 
great lake. Now they have all these machines to 
look at the sky. I come from about seven genera- 
tions of astronomers. The first one was invited to 
Russia by the czar of that time, who built a primi- 
tive telescope. The urge to look deeper and farther 
has always been there and instruments have been 
invented around it. It’s part of what we are. Ani- 
mals, or bugs or plants, just take in the air and let it 
out and they don’t have this conceptualization. Like 
Frances said, at what point does it become sky? It’s 
aO sky. It’s just our concepts that make it not so. 
We want there to be something that’s beyond us 
and outside of us and I think that’s part of the rea- 
son we’re not dealing with pollution. 

EM: Jack told me that once when Elvis Presley 
was doing a big show in Las Vegas, Johnnie Ray 
was doing a little show in the back room of the 



same club, and Elvis Presley said this cool thing, 
“Wait a second — there’s a guy that I’ve learned so 
much from and he’s in the little room.” And he 
brought the little room into the big room and 
shoved him up to the mike and said, “He started 
it.” Which I think is intriguing, but what I’m in 
love with is the relationship between the little 
room and the big room. Somehow there’s this cul- 
tural accident where a guy gives a blow job in a 
small room and because of that he gets pulled out 
of the big room and put in the little room and then 
years pass and then some other guy in the big room 
brings the guy in the little room back into the big 
room. This is how it happens all the time if you 
know what I mean. 

MB: When I was a teenager my friend and I and 
her father always played this game in which we 
tried to empirically prove that yesterday existed. 
And it was our conclusion that you cannot do it. 
We’d come up with millions of attempts — like tak- 
ing a Polaroid of a fire. But really all you’ve got is 
what you’ve got — that Polaroid is the only thing 
that’s real. Yesterday is not possible to empiri- 
cally prove, and start weaving that in with space 
and fifty million light years. All you really know 
that exists is what’s right at that second. As soon 
as you say, “second,” that’s gone. I suspect that 
time is something that we don’t quite get yet. 
We sort of understand speed. You see lightning 
and then you hear the thunder, so there’s the 
speed of light and the speed of sound. 1 don’t even 
understand the international dateline. 

EM: I have one story to tell. When I was a kid 
more than anything in the world 1 wanted to be 
an astronaut, that was just like my one desire. I 
was watching Womierfiil World of Walt Disney one 
night, a space travel show, and I was sitting there 
with my family and this rocket took off and I just 
had one of those feelings, like — this is it, this is my 
life, this is all I want to do. And I began to make 
plans then and I kept it up until the end of high 
school. 1 thought, well. I’ll study geology and that 
will get me on the ship and I kept changing my 
mind about what study would get me on the ship. 
And this went on and on until college when 1 
wasn’t good in math and I ended up an English 
major and wound up being a poet. At some point 
in my life in New York, I was just taking a lot of 
drugs and being a poet. I was taking speed all the 
time and I was taking acid and 1 thought, ‘Oh great. 
I’m an astronaut.’ So I had a speed doctor in Queens 
who I went to for eight years to get amphetamines. 
And I didn’t want to be Eileen Myles with the speed 
doctor so my best friend growing up, my real sort 
of psuedo girlfriend, her name was Mary Collins. 
I took her last name so my speed name all through 
those drug addict years was Eileen Collins, and so 
when I looked at the paper the other day and I 
saw this woman named Eileen Collins got to go 
into space and get my job ... I thought, ‘This is all 
an illusion.’ 

This transcrifn was shortened to fit the limits of the jmge. 
A full version will be I’liblished elsewhere someday. 

VIDEO STILLS: RECESS VIDEO 



PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 I PAGE 39 





W ate November, caught unaware. 1 had never 

■ hauled the boat out of the water, I didn’t 

■ have a plan. Which was why I was riding 
^ ^ shotgun in the stranger’s station wagon, 

his muffler gmmbling, our exhaust stitching to- 
gether the couple dozen streets that connect 
Bradford with Commercial, looking for a fisher- 
man named Crowbar. Crowbar, I’d been told, still 
had a boat in the water, and I needed someone 
with a boat to help me get my boat out. I’d left 
town for a week or two, left a friend to keep an 
eye on things, to see if the waterline was sitting 
heavy, to row out every other day to check the 
pump. That would have been Richard — Richard, 
who swam out a few times the previous July at 
one a.m. to work off some excess energy, too shy 
to pull himself on board, holding onto the din- 
ghy until he caught his breath or got too cold and 
headed shoreward. The next day he’d mention it, 
I sxx’tiiii out to your boat last uiglit, and I’d say. You 
slioultl have come aboaril. In Provincetown from New 
York, escaping a heroin habit that had gotten out 
of hand, he was sick as a dog when we met. We 
worked at The Moors — as day- waiters/ night-bus- 
boys, a “garbage job,” as Richard put it. He’d swim 
out after midnight when the bars dosed, a water- 
proof plastic case from Marine Specialties dangling 
from his neck, a cigarette and a lighter dry inside 
it. He’d crawl into the skiff to shiver and smoke 
before swimming back. By August Richard was 
leaving cigarettes on board, and sometimes stay- 
ing over. By November everyone else had fled, the 
town had emptied, and we were fast friends. Who 
else to ask to keep an eye on the boat? 



This was 1985, the first summer I moored the 
boat in Provincetown, the boat I had been living 
on for the past two years. I spent that summer a 
quarter mile offshore, estranged from my longtime 
girlfriend, trying to dissipate some bad energy of 
my own. Provincetown was good for that — the 
so-called last resort, the end of the world, jumping 
off point to oblivion. Provincetown, it seemed, 
could absorb nearly anything, nearly anyone who 
couldn’t fit in elsewhere, no such thing as too 
freaky, too lost, not here. By late November the 
police had already made their annual post-sum- 
mer sweep through town, rounding up the most 
obvious drug-peddlars, the walking wreckage, the 
ones who had been flush all summer on tourist 
hungers, and now found themselves eating the 
profits, the product, spending all they had accu- 
mulated, nothing else coming in. Summer's over, 
the police murmured, buy a bus ticket or check into 
jail. By then the rental cops had all gone back to their 
universities, and the dragnet cast by the yearround 
force was full of holes: many slipped through, left to 
face a winter of graceless unemployment. 

• 

The boat was a 1939 Chris Craft — 42’ stem to 
stern, 12’ beam, double-planked mahogany, twin- 
screw, yacht. Originally owned by a judge, 
christened Catherine, later bought by the owner of 
the boatyard where she was stored, in Humarock, 
Massachusetts. Out of the water eight years 
when we found her. My friend Phil and I had 
been looking for a big boat we could live aboard, 
having lived for a couple years on a 3T Trojan, 
which had begun to feel small. At that size the 
tables lower to become bunks, the cushions 
become mattresses. But nothing felt small about 



the Chris Craft. Boarding her from the stem you 
first came upon the aft deck, which led through a 
child-sized door down three steps into the aft 
cabin. This cabin had a double berth, built-in 
drawers, a vanity with a mirror, six brass portholes. 
The head was built into the aft starboard comer, 
and in this closet we kept our chemical toilet. From 
this cabin three steps up led into the main cabin, 
the wheelhouse — six-foot ceiling, windows 360 
degrees, sliding doors port and starboard, cork 
flooring, sized for a dance party. Beneath this floor, 
the bilge, where the water tanks were and where 
the engines would be, if we had the money or the 
inclination to reinstall engines. We rationalized that 
we were primarily looking for a place to live, not 
to drive, though perhaps in tmth we lacked the 
wherewithal. Then forward three steps down to 
the galley, which we had renovated, removing a 
wall to the second head in order to accommodate 
more counter space, replacing the small stainless 
sink with an enormous salvaged one of enameled 
steel, linoleum on the floor. The built-in cabinets 
had leaded-glass fronts in a diamond pattern, and 
we reblackened the cast-iron three-burner 
propane-fed stove. A door from the galley led to 
the forward cabin, fitted out with two bunk beds 
and more built-in drawers, side portals and a larger 
portal above that gave access to the forward deck. 
Above and below the waterline nearly aO the wood 
was mahogany — we imagined a small rainforest had 
been cleared to build her. The forward cabin ended 
at the bow, the sidewalls closer and closer as you 
went forward, the curve of the hull apparent here, 
the bow itself bullnosed, straight up and down, like 
the Tikviic, meant to pound waves into submission. 

Phil and 1 had bought her the year after my 
mother died. A faded jewel, nearly forgotten in 
that boatyard on the North River, the boatyard 
itself not readily accessible, tucked away, not 
visible from the street, the street not a main 
street, its sign overgrown with brambles. But we 
found it because it’s what we did — cruise old 
boatyards in oversized cars, get high and talk 
about boats. My mother had died by her own 
hand that past December, just before Christmas, 
shot herself. Phil’s died of cancer a few months 
later. Twenty-two, 1 had been at school, finish- 
ing an undergraduate degree, 1 came home to 
clean up, to deal with services, then went back 
to school. I had read that one shouldn’t change 
one’s life after a serious trauma, that one should 
go on with what one was doing, so 1 went back 
to school, signed up for classes that spring. A 
few months into it I found myself in the library, 
unable to comprehend a single word of the book 
open before me, the book I’d been staring at for 
over an hour. Slowly I became aware that it was 
upside-down in my hands, and shortly thereaf- 
ter 1 knew it was time for me to leave. I dropped 
out, returned to Scituate, my hometown, and be- 
gan getting the Trojan ready for the season. In 
August, we sold it, bought the Chris Craft, and I 
moved back onto land. Within a month, realizing 
how much work had to get done before the 
weather turned, 1 quit my job building greenhouses 
and began working full-time to pull her back into 
shape. It was an impossible project, far bigger than 
anything 1 was capable of, and perhaps exacdy what 



1 needed — to throw myself into something greater 
than myself, a project into which 1 could pour all 
my bad energy, which 1 seemed to have in abun- 
dance just then. The boat was built in 1939, the 
same year my mother was bom, and if 1 stood on 
the deck and looked north I could almost see the 
spot off Third Cliff where we’d scattered her ashes. 

Every waking hour from September until 
December 1 spent in the boatyard, scrambling up 
and down ladders, punctuated by runs to the 
hardware store, to marine supply stores, to stores 
that specialized in fasteners. At some point before 
we came along someone had begun fiberglassing 
the cabin, and it made sense to finish the work. 
We needed a string of clear days in order for the 
wood to be dry enough to take the resin, and 
October’s weather along the North River didn’t 
always cooperate. As we poked at the wood we 
realized that in spots much of it was punky, 
needing to be replaced, which slowed things 
further. The entire hull wanted refastening and 
caulk, especially below the waterline. Buying the 
screws to do this was akin to buying dmgs — we’d 
drive into Boston’s South End, to Allied Nut and 
Bolt, and pass a hundred or two hundred dollars 
to a man behind bulletproof plexiglas in exchange 
for a couple tiny packages of silicone bronze 
screws, things of beauty that promised to last 
longer than all of us. As the days grew shorter we 
discovered a hole in the hull you could put your 
hand through, along the chine, that line where the 
freeboard meets the hull. Somehow in going over 
the boat we had missed it. The owners at the 
boatyard told us, without great optimism, what 
we could try. They lent us hydraulic jacks and we 
lined four of them up along the chine, using a 
plank to distribute the pressure, and slowly 
cranked until we could eyeball the line of the 
hull back into shape. Then came a couple 
hundred dollars worth of silicone bronze. Most 
days I’d find myself working alone, as Phil held 
onto his job, perhaps not as desperate to see 
her float again, perhaps not feeling quite so 
homeless. Eating oatmeal for breakfast, 
skipping lunch, smoking more and more pot, 
losing weight, 1 was determined to get her in 
the water before mid-December, the 
anniversary of my mother’s death. 

By early December she was ready. We put 
rollers under the cradle, inched the cradle onto 
a train track, the track leading down an in- 
cline to the lip of the river, a steel cable con- 
necting the cradle to a pulley. Once at the 
water’s edge we had an hour to wait for the 
tide to float her free. We knew that after eight 
years all the seams would weep for days, 
that she would have to be closely watched 
until the wood swelled, and already river 
water was finding its way into the bilge. 

But when dead high tide came there 
wasn’t enough water to lift her, and we 
knew that tomorrow the tide would be 
a foot lower. We stood on the cradle try- 
ing to rock her, but she was too heavy, 
already too full of water. 1 noticed a nail 
sticking up from the cradle, pressed my 
sneaker into it, to bend it over, to make 
it safe, and instead drove it deep into 



my heel. The steel cable was holding us tight, no 
more play, and as the tide began to recede the 
owner of the boatyard got an axe and cut it, and 
Catherine drifted free. 

We lived for the next two winters moored to a 
dock in downtown Boston — plastic on the win- 
dows, electric blankets, a woodstove. This marina 
had been home to a small community of live- 
aboards for ten or fifteen years before we got there, 
and after the long months in the boatyard we found 
the neighborhood welcoming. The cold, though, 
presented a new range of problems, beyond our 
daily need to keep warm, namely the possibility 
of the channel freezing and crushing the hull. Our 
neighbors convinced us to hang tires from the gun- 
nels, which in theory would break up the ice as it 
formed. In the summer we would sit on the back 
deck and watch tourists tossing a styrofoam bale 
of “tea” over and over again into the scuzzy water 
from the deck of The Tea Party Shif, which was 
moored just aft of us. We yelled a bleary “revolu- 
tion” each time the tea splashed down. The tour- 
ists would have their pictures taken holding a fake 
bale, and occasionally the rope used to haul it back 
up would fray and give, and the soggy mass would 
float over to us. We ended up in court for a year 
with the people who rented us the slip, who de- 
cided, as the real estate market heated up, that they 
wanted us gone. They let us know this by shutting 
off our water and electricity, by random gunshots 
over our bows, by calling us out to fight in the 
night, by cutting us loose. One boat even mysteri- 
ously sank at the dock, a three-inch hole found 
cut through her hull. After a year in court we won 
the case, and then decided to leave, hiring a friend 
with a fishing boat to tow us to Provincetown. 

That summer 1 Eved on her alone, as Phil never 
wanted to live in Provincetown anyway, only to 
get the boat out of Boston. 1 got the job at The 
Moors, which only lasted that first summer, my 
history of coming in covered with seaweed and 
sand finally intolerable. For the next six sum- 
mers the boat was moored in the harbor, just 
west of the Coast Guard pier. 1 was convinced 
that someone had to be on her constantly, 
daily, to keep her afloat — sometimes it was 
me and a friend, sometimes just me. At night, 
if the tide was low, you would have to drag 
the rowboat out over the flats, pants rolled 
up around your calves, shoes left on the dock. 
You didn’t know what your feet were touch- 
ing and you grew to not care, as this was 
the only way back. At high tide it was easy, 
the skiff would be floating above all the eel 
grass and tiny crabs and muck, you just had 
to step in and push off, aim the bow to- 
ward where you Icnew the boat waited, 
and pull at the oars. All the water we 
drank we carried out in ten-gallon plastic 
scuppers, filled from a hose on Captain 
Jack’s Wharf. We tied our skiffs to a dock 
at the end of this wharf — although the 
wharf itself was private, the dock was 
designated public through some loop- 
hole. Even if this weren’t the case. Bill 



PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 I PAGE 41 



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PAGE 42 I PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 



Reese and Suzanne Dwyer, two good friends, ran 
Captain Jack’s during those years, allowing us free 
passage, a place to stash our oars, an occasional 
shower. An ideal set-up, mostly. The list of friends 
who lived on the boat full or part-time over those 
years includes: Richard Booton, who rechristened 
her Venal (it was the ’80s, after all); Neal Sugamian, 
playing his saxophone on the back deck, who re- 
christened her Evol (after the Sonic Youth album); 
Warren Leslie; Jessica LaMontagne; Tlieresa Kolish; 
LeeAnn Schumacher. Others, many others, came 
out and stayed for a night or two. Ray Nolin used 
to paint on the aft deck. Sharon Niesp came out 
one night and didn’t leave for three days. Neal, 
the unofhcial mayor of Provincetown for a several 
years running, brought Jack Pierson out a few 
times, and he took some photos. Marie Howe made 
it out tire last summer Catherine was afloat. People 
still come up to me and say, Iremeniberyon, von owiwil 
that boat, I was out there one night, but I won’t always 
remember them. I do remember, diough, how on an 
August night, you could dive from die top deck and 
your body would be completely lit-up by phospho- 
rescence, like an underwater superhero. 

• 

But this reminiscing begs the question — Why 
was 1 out there all those years, a quarter mile 
offshore, no telephone, no electricity, a propane 
stove, a radio powered by AA batteries, reluc- 
tantly coming to shore for the winter, making 
my way back to Boston or Europe or wherever, 
feeling that land itself was the temporary state? 
What was 1 passing through on my way to more 
water? 1 would look at the shoreline — all those 
houses, each window lit, families inside, whole 
lives unfolding, and 1 could convince myself that 
1 wasn’t a part of it, that the lives behind each 
window had nothing to do with my life. For me, 
being on the boat was supreme isolation, chosen 
isolation, holding myself apart from the world, 
which I only dimly understood anyway. Also, 
perhaps more significantly, 1 could sit on the aft 
deck and never be surprised by anything again, 
no phone would ever ring, no one would knock 
who 1 hadn’t seen coming. In that most tenuous 
of situations 1 convinced myself I was in control 
of what mattered. That 1 could go to sleep any 
night and wake up having broken loose — a knot 
failed, the line frayed, the anchor dragged — that 
1 could wake up and have drifted out of sight of 
land didn’t worry me much. It actually made a 
twisted sense, seemed in line with my internal 
weather. When everything has proven to be tenu- 
ous one can either move toward permanence or 
move toward impemianence. The boat was sub- 
limely impermanent. Some mornings the fog 
would be so thick that the boat existed only in a 
tight globe of clearing, beyond which all was 
foghorn and unknown. But 1 would not allow 
myself even the surprise of land nowhere in sight — 
I convinced myself it was welcome. 

Let’s just say it — I was depressed. Living on the 
boat was, in part, a fomi of, an acting out of, de- 
pression. For long stretches this boat was my only 
home. That this was a choice 1 made was clear, 
but why 1 made this choice was not. If I could 
keep the boat floating each year, what did that 
prove, what would it mean, if anything, about my 



mother? That the boat was floating in molecules 
of her ashes, that she had been swallowed by fish, 
that every time 1 dove on the anchors 1 took her in 
my mouth? The boat was a cradle rocking me to 
sleep, the boat smelled of salt and mildew, the boat 
had been nearly forgotten and I had saved her, 
through sheer will, improbably. Each year it went 
in, what did that say — another year from the day 
she died, a clear path, across the water, all I had to 
do. It focused me, filled my mind, an obsession ' 
outside myself. 1 could walk the streets looking to 
the tops of the trees to measure the wind, 1 could 
know without looking the tide, 1 could dive on 
my anchors every other day and reset them in the 
sand, 1 could see the cabins needed paint and try j 
to make more time. All of it filled my brain so 1 
didn’t have to think of her. Which is perhaps the j 
function of obsession, and the ocean demands 
obsession, it’s bigger than all of us, it cares noth- 
ing about our struggles, our lives. The ocean is al- 
ways loohing for a way into your boat, a Coast Guard 
pamphlet warns, and it is true. With other boaters 
you exchange stories of breachings and near- 
sinkings and total losses. You hear about storms and 
how drey’d been fought or ridden out or succumbed 
to. 1 know one captain whose boat spmng a plank 
while being towed, and while jamming some tow- 
els into the breach Iris amr got pinned, so his hand 
passed clean through the hull, the ocean rushing in. 

He had to time die roll of the waves to pull it free. I 
know fishemien who rode out hurricanes widi dieir 
bow to the stomi, the wind sandblasting their eyes 
until all dieir blood vessels were broken. 

And then there are those on land, who say, in- 
variably, I've always tlreained of living on a boat, to 
which you nod, placing them on the list of those 
to tap next spring to help paint her. It could be a 
perfect day on Commercial Street but you’d just 
rowed through four-foot whitecaps, having taken 
a pounding all night. Your reality doesn’t line up 
with anyone else’s, which is also strangely com- 
forting. How can you expect anyone to know what 
it is like? So the ocean becomes obsession and the 
boat the fetish object within that obsession, if a 
fetish can be understood as the material container 
in which to pour the emotional life. In other words, 
it was easier for me to be filled constantly with 
anxiety and nameless dread at the imminent sink- 
ing of my boat than to face directly that same dread 
I’d felt my whole life toward my mother. That my 
mother did sink beneath the surface only fueled 
my desperation to keep the ocean out of my boat. 
The boat survived both Hurricane Gloria, in 1986, 
and Hurricane Bob, in 1991. In both she was dam- 
aged, took on some water, sank beneath the waves 
for minutes at a time. During Gloria another boat, 
monstrously, jumped upon her and they struggled, 
beating each other, punching out portholes, but 
she never broke loose, never sank, when, sadly, 
many others did. I kept her alive, gave her eight 
more years in the water, where a wooden boat 
thrives. And if giving into fetish and obsession can 
have a triumphant end, perhaps mine did, blessed 
as 1 was to live precipitously inside her those years. 
Mainly, though, I believe now that the obsessive 
nature of the entire project acted to keep me alive, 
got me through to the next step, provided me with 



something truly impossible to focus on, beyond my 
despair. Even so, by the end of it I was utterly lost. 

• 

Which brings us back to that first fall, to the 
station wagon weaving up and down desolate 
late-November streets. Though the boat weighed 
in at sixteen tons, 1 somehow underestimated how 
difficult it would be to haul her for the winter. Not 
only take her out, but find a home for her on land. 
In subsequent years I would know to haul her ear- 
lier, by the end of September at the latest, before 
the season of nor’easters and emptiness. I would 
know to enlist the help of friends, people who 
knew these waters, knew boats. But this first time 
I was green, naive, dumb. I’d waited too long. I 
needed someone to tow my boat to shore, where 
a truck would meet her at the ramp, back a forked 
trailer around the hull and lift her into the air on 
hydraulic pads. The man who operated this trailer 
was named Steve, able to thread the beamiest boat 
down the narrowest street, between telephone 
pole and stray parked car. But I hadn’t yet met 
Steve, or seen what he could do. I first needed to 
meet Crowbar, who perhaps owned the only boat 
still in the water so late in the season. 1 got his 
name from someone at the Old Colony, who swore 
he was due back any minute. After a fruitless hour 
this friend of Crowbar’s offered that he might just 
know where he was hiding, if I wanted to take a 
drive. I had nothing to lose. I got in the station 
wagon, and we set out, slowly. We stopped at a 
house on Mechanic Street, and a couple other guys 
piled in. Someone had a joint, and we circled it 
silently. Then we stopped at Perry’s, where it 
seemed clear I should buy beer for everyone, in 
exchange for this favor 1 was being offered. Crow- 
bar wasn’t at the next house we stopped at, or the 
next. The driver would pull up, tell us to watch 
the car, and disappear for what felt like a long time. 
Once he came out shaking his head, passed around 
some valium he’d acquired. The sun was low by 
now, the shadows cold and long. It seemed the car 
was moving slower and slower, and with each 
house we stopped at Crowbar was further and 
further away. At one a woman came out to the car 
and told us he just left, but we forgot to ask her 
where he was headed. While waiting outside a 
house on Nickerson some sort of argument broke 
out and the two guys in the back kicked open their 
doors and stormed off in different directions. It 
was dark by now, darkness falling suddenly that 
time of year, and I became aware that the car was 
parked, and I was alone in it, and I wasn’t sure which 
house the driver had disappeared into this time, or 
how long he’d been gone. Dead-low tide, the boat 
still chained through the salty ink to the sand. Maybe 
I’d row out later, check the lines, the pump, maybe 
even spend one more night. 

Nick Flynn, a longtime seasonal resident of Province- 
town, was a second-year f’oetry fellow at the Fine Arts 
Work Center this i>ast winter. His hook. Some Ether, 
is reviewed in these pages. The above is excerf’ted 
from Wrong Ocean, an as yet unfinished memoir. 



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PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 I PAGE 13 




KAREN AND DINI (NOTE HOLLYWOOD SIGN IN DISTANCE) 



Last fall, Dini Lamot, aka Musty Chiffon, and Windle Davis, his partner, in life and in music, for twenty-five years, hosted one 
of the best P'town yard sales ever. Outside the Bradford Street home the two shared since 1991, intrepid shoppers with a 
taste for the baroque found feathered boas, dusty marionettes, and at least one dismembered mannequin, I picked up a 
ruffly floral-patterned 1950s apron and passed it along to Jenny Humphreys, who embroiders quirky recipes on these relics 
of housewifery and transforms them into art. My friend Karen adopted a rickety metal bench, weathered from its long 
residence on the house's sprawling roofdeck (the site of some of the best 4th of July parties evei), and placed it on her own 
deck, where the multicolored layers of paint continue to chip and whisk away with the breeze. 

The occasion for the sale — Dini and Windle's imminent move to Los Angeles — made the whole affair feel bittersweet. 
Town was losing a performer of majestic talent, by my count the greatest drag artist around. (The first time I saw Musty 
perform, my emotions ranged from absurd elation to abashed grief, to a peculiar sense of lust — not for Musty, but for living 
hard and well.) The yard sale gave us the chance to hold onto pieces of a living legend, and for far less than auction-goers 
pay for, say, the pearl necklace once worn by the icon Musty honors in the anthem-esque, "I Wanna Be Jackie Onassis." That 
these objects lead happy new lives, infused with the spirit of their past owner, speaks to the everlasting effect of those 
whose presence is so resonant, they never really leave. And besides. Musty will be courted back for local encores this 
summer. 

I asked Karen Finley, renowned performance artist and former Provincetown Arts cover subject, who also moved to Los 
Angeles last year, to talk with Dini about what spurred the migration, and anything else she wanted. So they did lunch, 
Hollywood-style, and here is the record. —Jennifer Liese 



K.-\rfn Finley: So, we re here at Wolfgang Puck's, 
in Los Angeles. Just had some Pellegrino. It's gassy. 
But 1 don’t like to say gassy. 1 like to say bubbly. 

Dini Lamot: In Italy they say, "With or without 
gas?" 1 say. "No gas." 

KF: 1 like the bubbles. So, Pm just going to talk 
to you today as Dini, yourself. Though I think 
Musty is a part of you. 

DL: Bubbling somewhere under my skin. 

KF: We both recently moved to Los Angeles, 
and we both have. I think, some bitter feelings 
in leaving wherever we were, but also positive 
feelings about our new direction. What made you 
leave Provincetown? 

DL: The opportunity to record again, to get back 
into the music liusiness. P’town was good to me. 
But on the other hand, I almost felt retired. I was 
kind of thirsty to be alive again. Even though I 
was doing Musty on a pretty regular basis and tour- 
ing out of Provincetown. it's a little isolated there. 
1 thought, well. I'll give up peaceful, beautiful Pro- 
vincetown for the city life. In Hollywood, I live right 
around the comer from Wolfgang Puck’s and the 



Sunset 5 Cinema, so I can walk to see a movie or 
buy a book. 

KF: Do you feel like you accomplished everything 
you could in Provincetown? And what did you 
hope to accomplish there in the first place? 

DL: I’d been going to P'town since I was fifteen. 
In the late '70s, I started my first band. Human 
Sexual Response. We achieved a small cult-level 
notoriety around the country and in Europe and it 
still gets me in doors today, the mention of that 
name. We broke up in 1982 and 1 started putting 
on shows at Spit, a popular Boston nightspot. I 
called it Cabaret Lamot and performed different 
characters. Then we moved to Key West and 
Windle and I put together a puppet theater troupe 
called the Other Glove Theater with Caleb Fullam, 
a famous puppeteer from Boston. We were tour- 
ing New York, Key West, Provincetown — four 
months, four months, four months. After Key West 
we went to Vemiont and renovated a farm that 
we sold. Windle and I had seen a house for sale in 
Provincetown ten years earlier, so we said let’s go 
see if that house is still for sale and it was. We 
thought we would renovate it and sell it, but even- 
tually 1 started performing again. That’s when 
Musty arose. 



KF: So Musty came out of Provincetown. You 
hadn’t done drag as performance before? 

DL: I had actually, all my life, but Musty came 
about when I was shopping at Razzle, a little 
underground shop in Provincetown, and 1 picked 
up an old dress that 1 was going to remake into 
an outfit for Lucille DeRosa — that’s who I was 
before Musty. I picked up the gown, and I sniffed 
it. And it was musty chiffon. 1 said, “Oh my God- 
dess, that’s my drag name!’’ And Windle goes, “Oh, 
1 don’t know, that’s pretty gross.” 1 said, “No, say 
it over and over in your head. It’s a perfect drag 
name for me.” I started go-go dancing as Musty 
Chiffon for a local promoter, Ryan Landry, who 
ran a discotheque. I’d written all these songs and 
said, "Why don’t you let me perform a song?” And 
he said sure. And that’s when Musty was bom. 

KF: Musty had to come to Hollywood because 
Musty needed to get bigger. She developed in 
Provincetown ... 

DL: She developed all right! 

KF: You’re perfomiing here constantly and you 
have your recording career. Drag is accepted as 
entertainment now, but you were doing it when 
it wasn’t accepted in the outside world. Do you 
feel drag has changed since you first started? 
DL: Well 1 never really pay attention to the out- 
side world. I didn’t consider myself a drag queen 
until I started, in the past fifteen years, perfomiing 
out. I’d been dressing in drag since I was two. Ev- 
ery Sunday, my parents would drop me off at my 
cousins’ house, and they’d put me in their com- 
munion gowns and parade me up and down the 
streets of Bangor, Maine. And 1 couldn’t wait. I was 
so excited to go and get dressed up. Play time with 
my cousins. I owe it all to them really. 1 was prob- 
ably two, three, four years old. 1 didn’t dress in 
drag on my own until 1 was maybe eleven or 
twelve. 1 was a rock and roll maniac. I’d go to 
Zayre’s in the Bangor Shopping Mall to buy 
records, dressed up in drag. I’d put on my mother’s 
high heels, stuffed with toilet paper, one of her 
little outfits and a sweater. I always thought that if 
1 wore a kerchief, people wouldn’t be able to tell 
that 1 was really a boy. And they’d think, ‘Oh, look 
at that little woman. Poor thing, look at how tiny 
she is.’ And 1 would buy 45s, take them home, get 
out of drag and dance around the house to the 
Mamas and the Papas. 

KF: Was that just for your own privacy or did you 
consider that perfomiing? 

DL: 1 saw it kind of as both. It wasn’t so much 
performing as I was fooling people and enter- 
taining at the same time. I knew 1 looked funny. 

KF: When you moved to Provincetown, and you 
were first doing Musty, you must have felt more 
secure. I think that’s one reason why I would go 
there — I would feel safety. 

DL: Yeah, you do feel that safety because, well, 
because they have laws. That’s all I’ll say. You 
know, the definition of drag perfomier is labeled 
on me. People will always say, “What do I call 
you? Are you a drag queen? Are you a transves- 
tite? Are you a cross-dresser?” I’m a perfomiance 
artist. And my publicist put it perfectly the other 
day. One of the clubs said, “So, when’s this drag 



page 44 1 PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 



queen getting here anyway?” And he said, “She’s 
not a drag queen. She’s, he's a female character.” 
That really describes Musty well, a female charac- 
ter, because I have many characters. Like when 1 
went out in Provincetown as Puss, who some may 
remember as a big, beer-swilling, 350-pound 
bearded biker. I would barge my way into most of 
the bars in P’town. And they’d all grab me and 
say, “Ten dollars to get in please.” And I’d say “F- 
that. I’m just here to have a big brew with my 
girlfriend.” And I’d walk by them again and they’d 
grab me, “Sir, you’re going to have to pay to get in.” 
I’d go, “It's me, Musty.” And they’d go, “Oh, goddamn 
you!” And I’d fool everyone in town. So I’m not just 
Musty, and I wouldn’t reaUy say I’m a drag queen. 
But I wouldn’t be mad if you labeled me one. 

KF: You’re a perfomier, a professional. But, people 
look at drag queens as though there’s some psy- 
chological distress going on. What was done to 
him or her? 

DL: Right. What is this about drag queens? Oh 
the poor thing, she wants to be a woman. What’ll 
she ever do. Another tragic drag queen — the drag 
queen is a poor, pitiful drug-addicted mess. Like 
we all are. 



can sing any style song. I’d like to produce a record 
for you.” So I took his card, left Key West, got out 
here to L.A., and the company said, “Musty, we’ve 
been talking about it for three weeks — we’d like 
to back a record for you.” I said, “Great, I just met 
a producer named Bob Este.” And they said, 
“What’s he done?” 1 called him up and started lis- 
tening to the list — “Last Dance,” “It’s Raining Men,” 
“Take Me Home” for Cher, and Barbra Streisand’s 
“Main Event.” So I thought, “Wow, I'll never be 
able to afford you.” He said, “Make me an offer.” I 
did, and he accepted. So we’ve done a two-single 
project, Bob and I, with an album in the offing. 
We’ll probably start recording in April, and it will 
be titled Paisley for Brains. The album will be less 
dance-oriented than the singles, more of a rock 
and roll album, which are my roots really. 

KF: And you’re touring all over the country. 

DL: Just started dates in San Francisco. I’m here in 
L.A. at The Factory on Thursday, Drag Strip on 
Saturday, and then I head out to places like Fort 
Worth, Dallas, New Orleans, Atlanta, Orlando, 
Jacksonville, Miami. Then it turns out the midwest 
is phoning for Musty. So the tour looks like it may 
just continue through the year. 



KF: How do you feel in coming to Hollywood hav- 
ing your persona accepted? Not as much as a straight 
woman or a straight man would be, but there’s some 
place for you. You’re looked at as a celebrity. 

DL: Exactly, that’s so strange. For instance, I went 
out with Windle. I had a job, the opening of a 
club I had to cover with the news team. The 
place was packed. One of the doormen goes, 
“Hey, Musty!” and they just parted the waves, 
and I went in. And Windle was like, “How do 
they know you?” I’m like, “Honey, I’m a celeb- 
rity.” They all know Musty. Once you see her, 
you kind of don’t forget her. 

KF: Tell me about the record, the dance singles 
you’re doing. 

DL: People were always saying “Do a CD. Do a 
CD.” But I didn’t want 100,000 copies sitting in a 
closet. I wanted to have a backer, someone to pay 
for it. And 1 also wanted a real producer. P.erfomr- 
ing out here, I’d run into these guys called Man 
Made Multimedia, a news team that covers gay 
news. I started working for them on events like 
the Grammys. They’d put me on the runway as 
Musty, and I would interview all the rock stars. 

KF: Who are some people you’ve interviewed? 

DL: Oh God, Clint Black, Lisa Hartman, 

Howie from the Backstreet 
Faith Evans. 

KF: Are you going to do the Ac, 
emy Awards? 

DL: 1 think they have me on tht 
runway at the Academy Awards 
this year. So anyhow, 1 was 
working for them, doing 
three-week run in Key West, 

This gentleman came up to 
me after a show and said, 

“Your voice is in- 
credible. You 




KF: What are you thinking you want to do with 
Musty in the future? 

DL: At the end of April, after we’ve recorded, 1 
plan to put together another show, like my caba- 
ret show, but with a full band, a mini-orchestra, 
so to speak, run that for a while, and see what 
happens. If this all died off tomorrow, I wouldn’t 
freak out because I’ve had a career before in the 
business. It’s just kind of in my blood. I'm really 
quite satisfied. So if it doesn’t work out with Musty, 
I’ll just continue my life with Windle. We’ve been 
together twenty-five years, and we’re really happy 
with just ourselves. We love traveling, we love 
renovating houses, and we love going to see con- 
certs, so if we’re going to see a concert or going to 
give one, it doesn’t matter. 

KF: Who are some of the Provincetown people 
coming through Hollywood to visit? I know Kathe 
Izzo was just here. 

DL: She’s so great. Kathe was out because of her 
book. She’s in Lesbian Erotica 2000, which is fan- 
tastic. Pearlene Dubois visited and perfomied at a 
sold-out Dragstrip 66. Lypsinka perfomied too, and 
Dave Kennedy just moved out from Wellfleet to 
work with former Monkee Michael Nesbit. Lorraine 
of Lorraine’s took us to Mijares, her grandmother’s 
restaurant in Pasadena for a six-hour lunch. 

F: Your apartment here still has many things 
from Provincetown. There is a peculiarity 
because you’re in Hollywood, across the 
street from where Tim Burton lives, right 
by the Sunset Strip, but it’s like being in 
your Provincetown house, all beauti- 
ful furniture and paintings. 

DL: People would walk into our 
house in P’town and go, “Oh my 
God, it’s just like being in Key 
West.” So that kind of 
goes with us. , • : 






KF: What’s the difference for you in living here? I 
like the lightness, the sense that you don’t have to 
be so concerned about integrity or politics. 

DL: Or anything. Tell me if I’m wrong, but I find 
L.A. very friendly. 

KF: I find it friendly, and everything is accessible. 
And 1 like that I’m looked at just as an entertainer. 
All of my “problems” aren’t looked at as problems. 
DL: Tell me a little bit about what’s going on for 
you. We’re both kind of in the success boat. For 
some reason, we’ve had luck in the last year and 
it’s brought us both here from our little towns. 
KF: 1 think 1 went through a lot of personal losses 
this past year. That happens to people in their 
lives. 1 lost my mother, my marriage was over, 
then I lost the NEA case. 1 just felt that a geo- 
graphic change would help, and it did. I feel much 
more connected on the inside. There’s something 
about tliis place, I think, being much more inter- 
ested in surface, and people not trying to pretend to 
be what they aren’t, that I find to be relaxing for my 
internal world. 1 can isolate without guilt. I can go 
places or not go places. 1 find tire interest in hair and 
nails and outside appearances relaxing. Whereas, I 
think on the East Coast, there is such a pretense of 
integrity. I just feel there’s a falsehood. Plus what you 
brought up about retirement. There was a sense 
when I was living in Nyack, that you setde down, 
you have your home, your own place, and it’s like . . . 

DL: Now what? 

KF: Right, now what? 

DL: Both of us, we’re just bom perfomrers. 

KF: Yes, and I like that. Now I don’t feel like I’m 
retired. I felt at forty years old, I was surrounded 
by people who were more escaping . . . 

DL: Than creating. 

KF: Than creating. I don’t mind the madness of 
the urban. There’s this sense that if it’s an urban 
area, it’s so bad. 

DL: P’town ’s pretty conservative when you come 
down to it, compared to a lot of cities and towns 
I’ve lived in. I hope, I think, I will live there again at 
some point— when I’m much older or want to be 
more isolated, want more privacy. Then I’ll find a 
little shack in the dunes or something, if I’m lucky. 
Actually, you can’t get those shacks, can you? 

KF: I never got those shacks. I hear that they’re 
there. I don’t know if I’d want a shack actually. 
You know. I’d get the shack in the dunes, and 
then I’d think, well, how am I going to get out of 
this shack? 

DL: I owe P’town a lot. But I’m not trying to re- 
deem anything I’ve said about Provincetown by 
saying that. To me Provincetown really is a sacred 
place. 1 even have Penobscot Indian roots. The 
move came just at the right time, really. Both of 
us, Windle and I, were feeling this. It was time. 
But P’town made Musty, it really did. The curl on 
my forehead is tmly representative of the Cape. 
That’s where we got the idea to put the curl on 
Musty. Yes, I’m a babe of the sands. 

Karen Fittley's latest j^erfonnance jnece is 
"Shut Uj’ and Love Me." 



PHOTO: SUSAN BROWN 



IVY MEEROPOL 



INTO THE EYE WITH SEBASTIAN JUNGER 




THE SHATFORD FAMILY— L TO R RICKY, ETHEL, RUSTY, BRIAN, AND MARY ANNE, WITH SEBASTIAN JUNGER 



n a crowded Manhattan movie theater one 
January night, a trailer for The Peifcct Storm 
booms out of the speakers. As people find their 
way in the dark and eat the glistening top layer 
of their popcorn, a wall of water fills the screen. 
The roar is deafening as a tiny boat makes its way 
up the impossibly steep face of a moving mountain. 
Sebastian Junger, author of the bestselling book 
on which this film is based, recalls the moment 
well. Shrinking down in his seat, he expected every 
head to swivel towards him. “It was painful. I felt 
like everyone in the theater knew it was me.” If 
they had noticed his long, tanned face and five 
o'clock shadow, they might have said something 
like, “Hey, you’re a lot shorter than I thought.” It 
wouldn’t matter that he was sitting down or that 
the photo they’ve likely seen — the one on his book 
jacket — only reveals him from the shoulders up. 
Because to the readers who have kept The Perfect 
Storm on bestseller lists for over three years, Junger 
is “supposed” to be taller. Strangers have told him 
so. In Europe he was described in articles as being 
six-foot-two, a generous five-inch addition to his 
actual stature. He’s also supposed to be a salty dog, 
like the fishemien who crewed the Andrea Gail, 
the doomed swordfish boat at the center of Junger’s 
book. Just as Stephen King's visage enhances the 
creepy quality of his horror novels, Junger’s rugged 
image is a publicist’s dream. He looks the part. Yet 
Junger is a reluctant archetv'pe whose experience 
with fame has been less than comfortable. It has 
been, in fact, downright embarrassing. 

As The Perfect Storm unexpectedly took off in 
1997, the media came calling, wielding precon- 
ceived hooks. Reporters honed in on his looks and 
instinctively romanticized him, and Junger found 
himself fighting to control his image. “Tliey wanted 
me to be a working-class guy. For one photo shoot 
they expected me to wear fishing gear and stand 
on a dock! What they didn't want was a kid who 
went to prep school and grew up in the suburbs.” 
A far ciy from the smell of fish. Junger was raised 
in a wealthy suburb of Boston and went to Con- 
cord Academy and Wesleyan University. He re- 
fused to pose in fishing gear, but one prominent 
magazine featured him shirtless and cradling a 
chainsaw, an allusion to his fomier career as a tree- 
cutter. In other publications, his eyes smolder and 
his muscles bulge. Peoi>le magazine dubbed him 
one of the sexiest men alive, a tag he resisted, to 
no avail. "I told my agent I didn’t want to do it. 
Then I learned the magazine didn’t even need my 
consent.” By that point, the media owned Junger’s 
image. What he'd already given them was enough 
to run with, enough to make him a star. 

With the movie coming out in June, the public- 
ity machine is revving up again. After the book tour, 
which Junger describes as “a mosdy miserable time,” 
he rcluctandy agreed to do a minimal amount of 

PAGE 46 I PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 



Stumping for the film. On the Gloucester film set 
of The Perfect Storm, he and George Clooney (who 
plays Captain Billy Tyne) hung out and commiser- 
ated. Tliey talked about how once you’re a celeb- 
rity the public and tlie media tliink tliey own you, 
how it’s not enough to just be yourself. Junger says 
he’s learned tlie hard way that “It’s not so much about 
creating an image, but about being on the offensive 
widi who 1 really am.” He cites a photo Entetlainment 
WeeL'Iy ran of him, shirtless on a sailboat. “That’s what 
you do on a hot summer day. The fucking photog- 
rapher had his shirt off too!” But that shot, of an 
author out on a boat on a hot day, helped render 
him beefcake and started him down the patli to the 
Oprah show, a place he did not want to be. 

“I’m the person who asks the questions, like, 
‘How do you want to come across?”’ explains Cathy 
Saypol, the publicist HarperCollins hired to help 
Junger navigate his own path. She is quick to point 
out that she is the kind of publicist who only deals 
with “serious non-fiction writers” and that Junger 
having a publicist is nothing like say, George 
Clooney having a publicist. For instance? “He 
[Junger] is very interested in international human 
rights, so I could help him lend his name to the 
causes he cares about.” And what about that fate- 
ful shot of an exposed chest? Saypol says, “Hun- 
dreds of celebrities would have loved that picture, 
but someone who is private doesn’t want that. 
From now on we’re more careful.” 

Junger knows the double-edged sword of 
celebrity — along with fame, fortune, and 
opportunity come credibility questions. The 
doubters say that “serious” writers don’t climb the 
bestseller list and stick there, nor do they appear on 
the Rosie O’Donnell Show. Serious writers have 
their work examined, not their pecs. “Christopher 



Fehmann-Haupt doesn’t give a shit about what I 
look like!” Junger growls, referring to an influential 
critic who gave him a favorable review. 

What concerns Junger far more than the poten- 
tial doubts and misconceptions of critics, fellow 
writers, even his readers, are the feelings of the 
fishemien, the people of Gloucester, the family and 
friends of the crew of the Andrea Gail. “I was terri- 
fied that people in Gloucester would think I’m the 
point and resent me for it,” he confides. “If they 
felt betrayed or deceived it would be unforgivable 
... I am painfully aware of what I’m not. The 
people in America may not know the difference 
but Gloucester knows the truth.” In Gloucester, 
Massachusetts, where the real-life sea tale took 
place, locals are known to be wary of outsiders. 
Junger is well-liked but he worked hard for the 
community’s trust. “1 wasn’t a fisherman, just a 
guy with a pad and pen. I think they accepted me 
at first because 1 came into the Crow’s Nest [the 
fishermen’s hangout] looking pretty scruffy after 
working outdoors all day. 1 fit in,” he says with a 
hint of pride. In the Afterword to the latest paper- 
back edition, he writes, “Every time I ventured into 
the Crow’s Nest, I felt like an intruder, and I’d had 
several excruciating dreams about the Andrea Gail.” 
Then, after publishing an article in Outside about 
the lost boat (the kernel of what would become 
The Perfect Storm) and obsessing over the response 
in Gloucester, he had an encouraging dream. “I was 
walking along a deserted beach and a figure strode 
towards me down the dunes. It was Bobby 
Shatford, and he walked up to me and stuck out 
his hand. ‘So, you’re Sebastian Junger,’ he said. ‘I’ve 
been wanting to meet you. I liked your article.’” 
In his dream, Junger, like a Crow’s Nest regular, fit 
right in. 



Junger’s apartment is on Manhattan's Lower 
East Side, an immigrant neighborhood where the 
newest arrivals are exotic creatures like models and 
slick restauranteurs. The trappings of Junger’s 
newfound fame and the wealth that accompany it 
are hard to find in his three-room walk-up. He lives 
simply — a CD player on an old box, a futon on the 
floor. He could use a maid. Yet there are small signs, 
like the crystal dish inscribed “1997 New York 
Magazine Award Winner.” When asked about it, 
he smiles wryly and says, “Oh yeah, that’s when 1 
was named one of ten most im- 
portant, or was it influential. New 
Yorkers.” The dish is filled with 
shrapnel, hunks of petrified wood, 
and feathers, as if to bring it down 
to earth. Other personal effects 
reflect what he is most proud of. 

A framed black-and-white photo 
of an Afghani soldier, a Middle 
Eastern rug, a hulking piece of ma- 
chinery dragged off the street, 
which now stands in the living 
room like a monument to hard 
labor. One indulgence is a beauti- 
ful black walnut desk, made by a 
friend. Junger surveys his posses- 
sions, wearing a plaid flannel shirt, 
faded jeans, and battered hiking 
boots, the beard on his face well 
past five o’clock, and agrees that life is very good. 

Before the Storm hit, Junger’s happiest times were 
spent shimmying up a tree wearing a tool-laden belt. 
Living in Gloucester he worked as a tree-cutter to 
pay for travel to war-tom nations, like Bosnia and 
Afghanistan. Between dodging tanks and bullets, 
he hung out with other journalists, gathering 
information for articles he assigned to himself. Once 
home, he would try to sell the story, but the 
magazines he respected, like Harper's and The New 
Yorker, weren’t biting. He decided he’d have to write 
a book to make a name for himself. His tree-cutting 
work gave him the idea to write about various 
“dangerous jobs.” Around that time the winds were 
whipping the coast of Massachusetts and Junger 
remembers “standing on the docks watching 30- 
foot waves.” Then there was word that a fishing 
vessel, the Andrea Gail, was lost at sea. Commercial 
fishing, he saw, was another dangerous job. 

A common theme in Junger’s work and life is a 
rebellion against safety, the kind of safety that keeps 
people at the same desk job year after year, return- 
ing to comfortable homes each night, cushioned 
from the elements and the unknown. In an inter- 
view in the Boston Phoenix, Junger says, “I grew up 
in the suburbs, I went to private school. You feel 
emasculated by that kind of background when you 
look at a man who has been in 50-foot seas and 
comes back with a weird look in his eyes.” Now he 
says, “The experiences I most value in life are the 
risky ones. Experiences that get your heart pump- 
ing.” In almost everything he writes, Junger does 
battle with that emasculating past. In a New York 
Times Op-Ed piece he asserts that we “make life 
appallingly safe” and in his book he warns, “Tour- 
ists blithely wander past machinery that could rip 
their summer homes right off their foundations.” 
Also in the book, he writes admiringly, “Fishing’s a 



marginal business though and people don’t succeed 
in it by being well-liked, they succeed by being 
tough.” Junger consistently betrays a deep interest 
in, and affinity for, not just lives lived dangerously 
but working-class lives in general. “1 am not at all 
interested in writing about people who are not 
working,” he says, delineating the difference be- 
tween sport fishermen, who he has refused to write 
about, and commercial fishermen, whose story he 
was compelled to tell. 

Despite such predilections, he does not hail from, 
nor make his living in, a blue-col- 
lar world. He may look the part 
and even love the part, but know- 
ing deeply that he is not the part 
significantly impacts his approach 
to writing about those he is “pain- 
fuUy aware” of not being. It seems 
that this bestselling sea tale, this 
rumored-to-be a $140 million 
film, has its roots in a kind of class 
struggle. The class struggle as the 
inner struggle of an author who 
both loves and fears his subject for 
what it represents, or does not rep- 
resent, in him. He wants to know 
where that weird look in a 
fisherman’s eye comes from, yet 
worries that the desire itself, com- 
ing from a self-described upper- 
middle class well-educated guy, is a condescension. 
To keep this conflict in check, Junger resolutely curbs 
any instinct toward romanticizing his subjects. 

In The Perfect Storm, Junger succeeds by mostly 
absenting himself. Training a clear, journalist’s eye 
on the fishermen’s lives, he lets the drama of their 
situation speak for itself. In the first few chapters 
he describes people not merely reluctant to go to 
work but fighting off nightmarish premonitions. 
They don’t just drag their feet, they 
cEng to bed frames and door jams. 

Every trip could be their last and they 
know it. So why do they do it? Here 
Junger’s voice momentarily breaks 
through the narrative. Describing a 
particularly successful trip, he writes, 

“The lowest crew member made 
$ 1 0,000 [per trip] . That’s why people 
fish; that’s why they spend ten 
months a year inside seventy feet of 
steel plate.” As an alternative answer 
to the same question of motivation, 

Junger also quotes a fisherman’s 
wife. “The men don’t know any- 
thing else once they do it; they love 
it and it takes over and that’s the 
bottom line. People get possessed 
with church or God and fishing’s 
just another thing they’re possessed with. It’s 
something inside of them that nobody can take 
away and if they’re not doin’ it, they’re not gonna 
be happy.” In his book, Junger takes pains to write 
about people simply going to work. He lets an- 
other voice romanticize the experience. As he ex- 
plains, “I had to answer the question of why they 
do it. But the question of why is an upper-class 
question, not one that these guys would ask of 
themselves. It’s like if 1 asked myself at nineteen. 



‘Why do I go to college?”’ Perhaps the act of ask- 
ing why is not about class (the fisherman’s wife 
asked why), but about being on the outside look- 
ing in; a perspective Junger is all too familiar with. 

Early on in the genesis of The Perfect Storm, 
Junger experimented with fictionalizing the story 
of the Andrea Gail. “It was appalling,” he says, “a 
total joke. I didn’t have the right to. I couldn’t in- 
vent characters talking, dinner conversations, et 
cetera. Maybe if I’d worked as a fisherman.” He 
decided instead to stay as close to the truth as 
possible. In an interview with the Bee Book Club 
he says that journalists “are in a way working 
harder. 1 think they’ve realized that if they attend 
to the craft of writing while doing the job of re- 
porting, it can be as compelling as a novel and lo 
and behold you’re not even making anything up.” 
When asked about the hint of disdain aimed at 
“making things up” he says, “Short stories are like 
a beautiful mirage. You can pursue that mirage 
for years but you can never get where you’re try- 
ing to go with fiction.” Junger wrote a lot of short 
stories but in his late twenties left it behind for 
journalism. It bothers him that “what you’re try- 
ing to do as a short story writer betrays a class 
distinction, a special privileged status. There’s that 
school of thought that plot doesn’t matter. No son 
of a cop would ever feel that the plot doesn’t mat- 
ter.” As a journalist, he had some revelations about 
the two fomis. “When I’m stuck or experiencing 
writer’s block now the only thing it means to me 
is that I haven’t done enough research and report- 
ing and that what I’m trying to make up with lan- 
guage is really a lack of plot. The words won’t 
save you.” Junger fervently believes that prose 
should be “completely subordinate” to the topic. 
He studied anthropology in college and considers 
himself a student of cultural relativism. “The less 
you interject your voice,” he says, “strangely, the 



more convincing you become ... I want to be the 
messenger between the world and the readers, 
like a waiter bringing food to a table.” Fortunately 
for fans of The Perfect Storm, you can’t always get 
what you want. Despite his somewhat reaction- 
ary views on fiction writing, in delivering the food 
to the table, Junger cannot help but bring his own 
dish; even the act of keeping his voice to a barely 
discemable whisper resonates in the work. 

PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 I PAGE 4'; 



Junger brought 
their story to life 
by investing it with 
his own 
contradictions. 
Their lives are at 
once heroic and 
pathetic, beautiful 
and terrible; and 
everything he 
wrote was in 
service to them. 




GEORGE CLOONEY, MARK WAHLBERG, AND SEBASTIAN JUNGER ON THE SEl 
Of THE PERFECT STORM PHOTO CLAUDEnE BARIUS ©2000 WARNER BROS. 



castlehill 

workshops • lectures • special events 

painting • drawing • illustration •printmaking 
photography • sculpture •jewelry • paper 
hookmaking •glass • clay • writing 

with 

Joel Meyerowitz • Paul Bowen • Andrea Gill 
Robert Douglas Hunter • Anna Poor • Sidney Hurwitz 
Tom McCanna • SelinaTrieff • Marge Piercy • Mark Doty 
Marian Roth • Sinan Unel • Sebastian Junger 

et al. 

TRURO CENTER FOR THE ARTS 

BOX 756 • TRURO, MA 02666 

Phone 508-349-751 1 Fax 508-349-7513 www.castlehill.org 



Why Should History Be Dull? 




The C.apc’s newest anti most innovative heritage attraction 
opens this summer at Whalers’ Wharf. 

1 designed and produced by an international award-winning team, 
Provincetown dales brings to life the stories of a unique community. 
1 his year featuring the dramatic true story, 

I’he Cireat Fire of Provincetown — February 10, 1998. 
F.xperience the terrifying events of the night the town caught fire. 
F'.vewitness accounts tell the story in a remarkable film and exhibition 

Open vear round at Whalers’ Wharf, Provincetown Center. 

For more information phone 508.487.6786 or visit our website at 
www.provincetowntales.com 



So how does someone consumed with class 
issues deal with becoming a millionaire? What’s 
it like at age thirty-seven to suddenly be flooded 
with greenbacks, to be the owner of a franchise 
called The Perfect Stomp Will he have to suffer 
through Happy Meals with toy fishermen, tiny 
nets, plastic fish and a Sebastian doll? Junger says, 
“In my position it is impossible not to feel a para- 
sitic relationship with the town and the Andrea 
Gail guys.” So he started The Perfect Storm Foun- 
dation. The Foundation gives grants for educa- 
tional opportunities to the children of Gloucester’s 
commercial fishermen and those working in the 
fishing industry. The kids write proposals for how 
they want to spend the money. One has already 
attended a boat-building school in Maine and an- 
other bought a computer for college. “There’s a 
tremendous lack of opportunity for the kids of 
these families,” says Junger, “If a fishemian dies 
his kids are better off [financially] than if he 
doesn’t.” On the homepage of the Foundation’s 
web site there is a mission statement that reads 
in part, “While writing his international bestseller. 
The Perfect Storm, Sebastian Junger developed tre- 
mendous respect for the fishermen of Gloucester. 
With the success of the book, Sebastian wanted 
to give their children the kinds of opportunities 
he experienced growing up that made it possible 
for him to write The Perfect Storm.” For all his 
discomfort with his background, Junger knows 
what it’s worth. 

Sebastian Junger’s own story reads like the 
plucky (and lucky) tale of a frustrated writer who 
makes it big with his first book. He now writes 
for The New Yorker and Harj>er's, has Vanity Fair 
referring to him in a proprietary fashion as “our 
contributor,” and is opening a bar in New York 
(his own Grow’s Nest?) with another famous jour- 
nalist. But Junger is foremost a writer who found 
the right story to tell, and the right way to tell it. 
His straightforward, journalistic style, coupled 
with an acute sensitivity to class distinctions, are 
what make this book a true homage to commer- 
cial fishermen. It’s a kind of emotive journalism, 
light on literary flourish, but still expressing both 
a love and a fear of the ocean that the fishermen 
themselves undoubtedly experience. Junger 
brought their story to life by investing it with his 
own contradictions. Their lives are at once heroic 
and pathetic, beautiful and terrible; and everything 
he wrote was in service to them. Their story is 
more powerful than the storm. 

When asked about plans for his next book, 
Junger gave a convoluted “no comment,” revealing 
only that people will be “very surprised.” A flush 
rose on his face, and there was, without a doubt, a 
weird look in his eyes. 

Ivy Aleeroj’ol is a writer and the fiction editor of 
Provincetown Arts. She lives in Brooklyn and 
North Truro. 



PAGE 48 i PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 




the summer studio 



July 28-October 1 , 2000 
Curated by Lillian Orlowsky 



PROVINCETOWN ART ASSOCIATION AND MUSEUM 




Song of Myself 



Photography 



Collaborative black & white portraiture by photographer Brad Fowler. 
Same day appointments and quick turnaround of prints. 

349 Commercial Street, Provincetown (508) 487-5736 
View Portfolio: www.songofmyself.com 



PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 I PAGE 49 








Memoirs of the Provincetown Review, 1958-1968 



Decades ago, on summer vacations from high school and 
college, I noticed brisk literary activity in the East End, a 
quick passing from house to house of people driven by in- 
scrutable missions. I grew up next door to Danny Banko, a 
contributing writer to the Provincetown Review. He rented 
one of his apartments to Bill Ward, who, with Harriet Sohmers 
and others, edited the mysterious journal. Norman Mailer 
was already an icon when he became involved with the Pro- 
vincetown Review'm the early '60s. He was writing in a small 



studio on the back of our family's property, passing daily 
to go to work, like a housepainter on his way to paint a 
house. No doubt his presence sanctioned the risky writing 
that aired in the fitful pages of a publication that served 
literature triumphantly for a full decade. 

The following memoirs were commissioned after re- 
ceiving a letter from Harriet Sohmers Zwerling. She had 
picked up a copy of the 1 999 issue of Provincetown Arts 
last summer at the A & P, and wrote to say: "I was totally 



astonished to find in the cultural history of Provincetown, 
my beloved summer home of 40 years, that the maga- 
zine Provincetown Review, with which I was associated 
in the '60s, and which was a truly important, radical, and 
innovative literary and artistic journal, has sunk below 
the historical waves and totally disappeared. We never 
were big and glossy, but we were the real P'town McCoy 
in the tradition of Mary Heaton Vorse, Hans Hofmann, 
and Eugene O'Neill! " —Christopher Busa 



BILL WARD 



Surprisingly 

Unconventional 

Misadventures 

W e were in Kerala, South India, sitting 
around a jumble of stones that were 
being interpreted by an astrologer. We 
were three: Mary Ann, my companion, Claude 
Arpels, a jeweler, and myself. The seer offered a 
couple of facts from my past that astonished me. 
How could the astrologer — in a little village off the 
beaten path — have known these details? His last 
words advised me that 1 would one day edit a 
newspaper or magazine. 

In 1958 Mary Ann and 1 were still together, 
living in Provincetowm. In those days winter life in 
town was rather bleak and harsh widr most of the 
shops, galleries, bars, and restaurants shuttered 
against the stomis that swept down Bradford and 
Commercial Streets. This was a time when the art- 
ists, vvTiters, and local fishemien met in the Old 
Colony, to drink whatever drey could afford or on 
w'homever could buy a round. Sometimes we would 
get together widr everyone donating something to 
put into the pot. It's surprising what palatable din- 
ners would spring into being. 

Of course, employment was very scarce. That 
year 1 worked as a waiter, assisted a plumber 
and a carpenter, and finally got a job on a trawler 
as a cook and deckhand. If the catch was good, 
our friends ate fish that night. 

Still, life was fun and healthy. Everyone got 
on, some to the point of trading off each other’s 
partners. A close community living in a desolate, 
midwinter scene, can often produce the most sur- 
prisingly unconventional misadventures. 

Among the writers was Danny Banko, a tall, 
lanky ex-cavalry man, who was a bom raconteur. 
He would start a story in a somber, deadpan 
manner, pulling in his listeners until he finished 
with an unexpected ending that had everyone 
laughing helplessly. Paul Koch came onto the scene. 
He took life rather seriously. We three were the 
original creators of the Provincetown Quarterly. 

PAGE 50 I PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 




LTO R. SOHMERS, UNKNOWN, WARD, KRIM, C. 1960, P'TOWN 



Paul left the project before his name could be 
typed on the masthead, but we did publish some 
of his poetry. Our first issue was made up of con- 
tributions from resident artists and writers and 
from friends around the country. Interest in the 
project was slow to develop, but when it was fi- 
nally understood that it was going to be a part of 
the scene, the artists responded generously. Franz 
Kline, who we drank with, Peter Busa, Fred Tasch, 
Mark Rothko, and many others, including Bill 
Barrell, all contributed to the magazine. 

Bill and his wife, Irene Baker, lived upstairs from 
Mary Ann and me in Kiley Court. Many a time 
they opened their studio for magazine meetings 
that would turn into songfests and beer busts. 
Among the fishemien were Victor Alexander and 
A1 Silva. Both were great Lotharios who bedded 
the female tourists with ease. They too participated 
in the birth of the magazine. In order to finance 
the venture, we asked friends to become patrons 
and pooled our personal money whenever pos- 
sible. I made certain that the funds collected were 
safely banked so that no one of us could dip into 
it. Money was the ongoing pursuit for as long as 
we published. 

Having collected our poetry and art, we were 
ready for the last step. We needed to find a 
printer within our price range. We finally found 
a linotypist shop in Providence, Rhode Island. 
When I first held a copy of the finished maga- 
zine, I felt as though the Indian prophecy had 
been fulfilled. 

James Wingate Parr, an artist who lived in and 
loved P’town, created the fish design of our sec- 
ond cover in tribute to the fishing industry, bed- 
rock of the community. He was a gentle person 
who drank with us. Later, he was mysteriously 
murdered in the dunes. 



Widi this second issue, Danny Banko had fallen 
off the masthead to be replaced by a new staff. 
This was the issue that witnessed the local busi- 
ness community coming aboard with advertising 
support. Their belief in our venture made life easier. 

In the third issue, Seymour Krim and Harriet J 
Sohmers became associate editors. I first saw 
Harriet, sitting by herself at the bar in the OC. 
She was a tall woman with long black hair and a 
magnificent profile — not beautiful, but striking. 
When she left the bar, 1 followed her down the 
street to DeeDee Bloom’s apartment. After she 
went in, I pounded on the door. Harriet asked 
Dee who the hell I was. She assured her that I 
was a friend. To simplify this history, Mary Ann 
had moved out, and Harriet moved in. 

Come the fall of 1959, Harriet and I returned 
to New York City, still together. Seymour Krim 
was already an established writer. We tapped our 
contacts for manuscripts. Of course, we couldn’t 
pay anything, but we managed to sail on for 
many more issues. 

In 1960, in issue No. 3, we burst on the scene 
with a story by Hubert Selby, Jr., called “Tralala.” 
The main character was a young prostitute who 
knocked over drunks and anyone she thought 
might have a wad of bills. She was a huntress on 
the prowl for a well-heeled dude. After many 
sordid adventures, she came to a violent end in a 
gang rape on the Brooklyn docks, her body tom 
like a piece of garbage left to rot on a pile of rags 
and empty beer cans. 

In an Esqnire article, the magazine was singled 
out as an outstanding example of the literary little 
magazine. 

The following summer, I was arrested and 
jailed on a charge of “publication of obscene 
material for sale.” A young tourist had bought a 
copy of the magazine in a restaurant, shown it 
to his parents, who found it to be objectionable 
and complained to the Provincetown Police. 
Chief Marshall brought charges against the maga- 
zine and myself, as Editor-in-Chief. 

We were convicted at trial despite the expert 
testimony of an array of witnesses that included 
Pulitzer Prize winner for poetry, Stanley Kunitz, 
magazine editor and professor of literature, 
Norman Podhoretz, and publisher, Jason Epstein. 

All agreed that “Tralala” was in the “naturalistic 
tradition.” If anything, the central character paid a 



terrible price for her life of sadistic 
crime, making it a morality tale rather 
than a piece of pornography. 

The denouement of our legal 
drama was that the Massachusetts 
Attorney General agreed to a nolle 
l^seqni on the entire proceeding, thus 
justifying our intrepid position. 

Aker Provincetown Review bio. 3, our 
little magazine had arrived. We received 
manuscripts from around the country 
as well as an abundance of contributions from the 
New York scene. But money was still a concern. 

To raise funds, we threw parties in lofts, dance 
studios, and halls around the city with live mu- 
sic by stars like David Amram and the painter 
Larry Rivers. 

One way or another, we managed to put out 
four more issues, containing hot contemporary work 
by such important writers as Susan Sontag, Allen 
Ginsberg, Alfred Chester, LeRoi Jones, Jack Micheline 
and more. By 1968, we started to lose momentum. 
However, our last issue. No. 7, was a triumph. 

The decade of publishing the magazine, from 
1958 to 1968, was an exciting time in my life. 
Over thirty years later, the connections are still 
there. Unfortunately, Seymour and others have not 
survived to see this acknowledgment of a great, 
not so “little,” magazine. 

Bill Ward: Former editor of Provincetown Review, 
still teaching, traveling the world, looking for an 
exfdanation of being. 



HARRIET SOHMERS ZWERLING 



Old Friends and 
Former Lovers 

I n the spring of 1959, shipwrecked in New York, 
back from ten years in Paris, I washed up on the 
bay shore of Provincetown, broke and pregnant. 

A few weeks later, having flown to Havana for 
an abortion, I shacked up with Bill Ward, then a 
yearround resident, waiter at the Lobster Pot, wild- 
eyed, wild-haired poet, and all-round swinger. The 
summer before. Bill and his long, lanky, hard-drink- 
ing friend, Danny Banko, had put out a magazine. 
It was called Provincetown Quarterly and, in an in- 
spirational foreword, declared itself a voice for 
beauty and artistic freedom. That first issue had a 
contribution from Mary Heaton Vorse on the Pro- 
vincetown Playhouse, and a poem by the famous 
Harry Kemp, “Poet of the Dunes,” both icons of 
the early P’town art colony. Tony Vevers did the 
cover, and there was work by other artists who 
lived and worked in Provincetown. 

By the next summer, when I arrived on the 
scene, the magazine had changed its name, pre- 
sumably for practical purposes, to Provincetown 
Annual. It had a cover by James Wingate Parr, art 
by Hans Hofmann, Lenore Jaffe, Bill Barrell, Franz 
Kline and other Cape-connected artists. Among 



the writers were Norman Mailer, 
Seymour Krim, and Charles Olson. 
The list of patrons included such Prov- 
incetown natives as Albert Silva, Vic 
Alexander, Robert Patrick, and art 
community stalwarts like Fritz 
Bultman and Mark Rothko. The mast- 
head lists me as Associate Editor, a 
courtesy tide, gift of Bill Ward. 

By summer 1960, the magazine 
had metamorphosed into Provincetown 
Review, with Seymour Krim and myself as Associ- 
ate Editors. We gave that issue. No. 3, a totally 
new look and feel. Somewhere in Brooklyn we 
had found a brilliant Lithuanian printer, Balys 
Jacikevicius, who, as an artist himself, embraced 
our pages with eccentric typefaces and highly origi- 
nal layouts. We had begun to move away from a 
purely local focus and to expand into the New York 
literary scene. 

We published LeRoi Jones (later Amiri Baraka), 
Paul Goodman, Rosalyn Drexler, Peter LaParge, Fred 
McDarrah, Phillip Lamantia and most significandy, 
Hubert Selby, Jr., whose violently sensual story, 
“Tralala,” would make our magazine a cause cclebre 
in the arena of artistic freedom. 

No. 3 was our first baby — totally original in con- 
cept. It bonded the three of us. Bill, Seymour and 
myself, into an intense and somewhat incestuous 
family. 

In issue No. 4, we drew on our respective 
friends and connections and brought to press under 
our covers such significant writers and artists as 
Alfred Chester, Allen Ginsberg, Joel Oppenheimer, 
Susan Sontag, Diane DiPrima, Selina Trieff, Emilio 
Cruz, and Elaine de Kooning. 

Our mad Lithuanian had lost interest in our 
project, but we found, serendipitously, a new 
printer, a great old Lefty and art lover called 
Harry Gantt. We also had a talented Art Editor, 
Alf Zusi, and brilliant cover photography by 
Larry Shustak. 

The storm broke that summer of 1961, based 
on a trumped-up charge of selling pornography 
to a minor — the Selby story, in No. 3, in 1960. 
Our response was Provincetown Review No. 5. 

In it we published the entire transcript of the 
nasty trial in which Bill Ward, as Editor-in-Chief, 
was accused of pushing smut. With the help of 
our ACLU attorney, Reuben Goodman, we enlisted 
such important literary figures as Stanley Kunitz, 
Jason Epstein, Norman Podhoretz, and Allen Tate 
to speak in defense of our right to publish the story. 
Their testimonies, in particular that of Stanley 
Kunitz, Pulitzer Prize winner and established 
American poet, were deeply interesting and im- 
portant in terms of the whole history of American 
literature. 

I wrote an article in the Village Voice on the po- 
lice-state atmosphere of our supposedly liberal 
town. 1 said, “Provincetown, beloved of Bohemia 
since the '20s, is well on its way to becoming the 
most repressive little city on the Eastern seaboard.” 
And farther on, “The story [“Tralala”] was good, 
beautiful in the high tradition of didactic realist 
writing, the tradition of Zola, Flaubert, Farrell, 
Faulkner, the Marquis de Sade. We didn’t want to 



corrupt the minds of Boy Scouts or of the local 
Knights of Columbus.” 

In spite of the brilliant defense mounted by our 
lawyer, and of a giant hole in the prosecution’s 
case (the buyer had not been underage at the time of 
purchase), the magazine, in the person of Bill Ward, 
was convicted. We appealed the verdict and the 
the entire case was dismissed. Our (in)famous Po- 
lice Chief, Francis H. Marshall, was outraged and 
protested the decision. But we had won. 

The case had put Provincetown Review on the 
national map. Unfortunately, it had pretty much 
exhausted our little family emotionally and 
financially. But we were inspired by a righteous 
determination to keep the magazine going and 
brought out No. 6 in 1 963, again with Harry Gantt 
as our printer. 

In this issue, our connection to the Beat move- 
ment became evident. We published Herbert 
Huncke, Jack Micheline, Stanley Fisher, and our 
own strongly New York stuff— my story, “The 
End,” Seymour's “Through a Kid’s Fearful Eyes,” 
and Bill’s Introduction. Again, we had a smashing 
photographic cover by Ken Van Sickle and a sec- 
tion of graffiti shots by Larry Shustak. As from the 
beginning, we were out front, never looking back. 
The ’60s Zeitgeist was our natural home — we 
swam in it and ahead of it. 

And then, things changed. Our lives changed. I 
married, had a son, and became a teacher. Bill also 
married. Our sweet Daddy, Seymour, was teach- 
ing abroad and producing his own fantastic books, 
like Views of a Nearsighted Cannoneer and Shake It 
for the World, Smartass. On our masthead he was 
listed as “Deus ex Machina” because of his neces- 
sarily diminished participation. We were still tight, 
all of us, but other demands took precedence. 

No. 7 had a sensational photographic cover, 
showing two tittering New York cops in dark 
glasses. The banner across their portrait said, “The 
Last of Lenny Bruce,” a signal to our readers of the 
issue’s serious intent. We were targeting the whole 
country — its hypocrisy, its lack of honor, its 
violence. Bill Ward fired the opening shot with his 
poem, “REK (June 8th, 1968),” a powerful 
indictment of our murderous society. Alfred 
Chester, Ted Joans, Carl Solomon, Troy De Bose 
(his gay-themed story, “The Princess of Perry 
Street,” ventured into an area of American life 
hardly touched before), Edward Eield and Rosalyn 
Drexler wrote with an overwhelming seriousness 
and sharpness we had perhaps not achieved until 
then. And, of course, the UPI photograph of a 
naked Lenny Bruce, dead from a heroin overdose 
on the bathroom floor, was the bloody heart of 
the issue. Dan Propper’s extraordinary poem about 
death accompanied and expanded on the photo — 
a powerful elegy. 

That was our last issue. We went our separate 
ways — old friends and former lovers — who had, 
against tough odds, created a literary review to 
make ourselves and Provincetown proud. 

Harriet Sohmers Zwerling: Former editor of Province- 
town Review, mother of rock musician Milo Z, retired 
from teaching writing uf’ a storm, still swinging. 




PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 I PAGE 5 ; 





CHERIE HUTTING, I SAW MYSELF REFLECrm IN HIS EYES. 1986 



Are We Going to Fez? — Talking Paul Bowles with Cherie lUutting 



STEPHEN AIKEN 



Say: "O unbelievers, 

I serve not what you serve 

and you are not serving what I serve.” 

— The Kent II 

1 am the wrong direction, the dead ner\'e-end, the unfin- 
ished scream. One day my words may comfort you, as yours 
can never comfort me." 

— Paul Bowles, Ne.\t to Nothing 

C herie Nutting's East Village studio apartment 
opens to a narrow hallway. There is a modest 
darkroom on the left, and, stepping straight, a 
small bathroom. "The plumbing is leaking 
again," she informs me. The bathroom walls are 
saloned with mementos— Cherie in a Davy Crockett cap, 
looking like Scout in the movie To Kill A Mockingbird, Cherie 
in a ballerina tutu, Cherie's mother, standing contraposto in 
a white two-piece, the epitome of late-'50s glamour. There's 
a psychedelic painting of a knife and heart by Mohamed 
Mrabet, the Moroccan storyteller, and of course, pictures of 
Paul Bowles, which prove to be everywhere. Passing the niche 
kitchen, Cherie opens the refrigerator door. Inside, it looks 
like an igloo, with something snowed in that may be may- 
onnaise. I realize I should have brought some take-out with 
the bag of beer. Our shoes left at the door, we settle down 
on big Moroccan pillows. My only concern is the sweltering 
heat. " How is it a numbing sixteen degrees outside and blood 
temperature in here?" I ask. "You could open the window," 
she offers, "but the gates are broken. Just pretend you're in 
the desert!" 

It is the frantic week before Yesterday's Perfume goes to 
the printer. Cherie's book chronicles, in photographs and 
diaristic writing, the thirteen years she spent with Paul Bowles 
in Morocco. Having just returned from the office of her editor 
at Random House, Roy Finamore, she is contemplating the 
economic demands of the publishing industry and how her 
project resists standardization. Its 264 pages include 
contributions from Peter Beard and Bruce Weber, and 



previously unpublished writings by Bowles. She is sorting 
paste-ups. It's a "This is going in, this is coming out, what 
do you think of this?" kind of conversation. I'm boggled, but 
form some idea of the overall picture. The great achievement 
of Yesterday's PerfumewlW be its presenting of Bowles, who 
died in November of 1999, in a new light. Because Bowles 
chose to remain abroad in his modest Tangier apartment 
for over fifty years, he is often perceived in this country as 
standoffish and taciturn. Nutting presents Bowles as a warm 
and upbeat personality surrounded by a circle of talented 
friends. Call him the "last existentialist" if you must, as long 
as that assessment does not preclude having fun. 

I've known Cherie for over twenty years. When we first 
met we learned we had Morocco in common. I had traveled 
in Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco, yet an important 
ingredient was missing in my North African experience. I 
had yet to read "the book." It wasn't until Cherie gave me 
the book and I read it that I was, shall I say, initiated. The 
book was Bowles' The Sheltering Sky. Out of print for years, 
the post-World War II novel was being rediscovered by a 
cadre of readers at the beginning of the post-Vietnam era. 
It tapped that same spirit-weary nerve in a new generation 
looking for anywhere that was not here. Anywhere or better 
yet, nowhere, to shed their Americanness, like the skin of a 
snake let roll down a desert dune. Bowles derived his title 
from a popular World War I tune, "Down Among the 
Sheltering Palms." Because in the Sahara there is only the 
sky, Bowles omitted the palms, leaving the fine fabric of 
the sky. Bowles presented the new conditions of modernity, 
ground rules for the infidel: The sky is the thin membrane 
between life and death, the traveler's final frontier, and 
the last obstacle to repose. Those who retreat to the oases 
of this alien world learned that becoming one with the 
other is impossible. All that is left to the living is madness 
or flight. En route to Ceylon, shortly after reading reviews 
of The Sheltering Sky, Bowles stopped in Djibouti and 
photographed the enamel sign that marked the residence 
of the great 19th-century poet-traveler, Arthur Rimbaud. 
Bowles' novel certainly heeded Rimbaud's marvelous 
revolutionary cry: "II faut etre absolument moderne." (We 
have to be absolutely modern.) 



Stephen Aiken: You first visited Morocco as a child. 

Cherie Nutting: Yes. My motlrer and I sailed on 
the SS Comtilutiott in 1960. Oddly enough, 1 was to 
learn drat Jane Bowles would make the crossing on 
the same ship one month later. We were on our 
way to Spain, however our first port of call was 
Casablanca. At the captain’s suggestion, we took a 
bus to Rabat. My mother was now accompanied 
by a Gemian Count, who was loving looking at 
her. She was tall and gorgeous. In the Casbah, all 
eyes were on my mother’s blonde hair. At the time 
1 drought that Morocco was in the desert, but of 
course tire Moroccan coast is far from the Sahara. 
So when the bus passed a spot that looked like the 
desert, 1 took a photograph of the landscape, which 
1 later called "The False Desert.” That was my first 
brief experience of Morocco, land of illusions. 1 al- 
ways kept this little snapshot with me, thinking tirat 
one day I would return. 

SA: You went on to Spain? 

CN: For a few years we lived in Spain, mostly in 
Barcelona, where 1 attended the Marymount In- 
ternational School. 1 returned to Spain in 1970 
and found it a very different place. Franco was 
still hanging on, but much of the unique flavor 
of the country had faded. These were the hippie 
days. 1 was traveling with my girlfriend, Stacey, 
and we decided to go south and take the ferry 
across the Straits of Gibraltar to Tangier. 

SA: Two young American women alone in the 
Casbah. 

CN: Oh yes, the hustlers were all over us. Stacey 
wanted to leave the next day, but I convinced 
her to stay. We traveled south to Essouira. One 
night we got high and Stacey began talking about 
wanting to get married and settle down. 1 was 
absolutely against this idea. 1 said, “No!” she 
should stay with me in Morocco. Well, we left 
for Marrakesh and there at the American Express 
office, I met a guy named Meko and we were 
married practically the next day. 



I 

J 



PAGE 52 ' PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 



SA: American Express — I should say so! I thought 
we were on the Marrakesh Express. 

CN: Later we opened a store in Provincetown 
called Marrakesh Imports. 

SA: When did you become aware of Paul 
Bowles? 

CN: Toward the end of our marriage, my ex- 
husband gave me a copy of The Sheltaiiig Shy. 
“This book was written for you,” he said, and he 
was right. It had an enormous impact on me. 

SA: And shortly after, you got the notion to 
write to Bowles? 

CN: Yes, I was having these dreams with strange 
images of birds swooping and smashing into my 
head. A short time after this, a good friend, A1 
DiLauro, died. It was such a shock. He was older 
than me, but so young at heart. I thought the 
dreams were a warning. 

SA: A1 DiLauro, the artist from New York and Pro- 
vincetown. He did that wonderful series of land- 
scape coUages, each with an artificial daffodil placed 
in the scene. 

CN: They had artificial daffodils at his funeral, and 
1 saved two. He loved daffodils because they her- 
alded spring and his return to Provincetown. 

SA: In this letter to Paul Bowles, did you write 
about the dream? 

CN: It was the story of my life — in about ten pages. 
I sent two photos with it. One was of my mascu- 
line side, which I called “Scout,” I look like an 
Indian with a headdress. The other was of my 
feminine side, which I called “Alma,” sitting next 
to my altar in a negligee. 1 told him it was in my 
destiny that we should meet! 

SA:A ten-page letter from a stranger, and he wrote 
you back? 

CN: Yes. I never expected it. He even invited me 
to visit him in Tangier. 

SA: So you started packing? 



CN: Yeah, I went via Spain, stopping in Malaga to 
pay tribute to Jane Bowles. She is buried in the 
Cemetary San Miguel. In my hand I carried Al’s 
artificial daffodil to place on her grave. I took away 
a film canister of earth and a bouquet of white, 
plastic forget-me-nots as gifts for Paul. 

SA: In Tangier you had some difficulty locating 
Bowles' apartment. 

CN: Yes, Paul’s directions were vague, and the 
taxi driver was of little help and left me in what 
looked like the middle of nowhere. 1 was lost, 
and it was starting to rain. Then I saw it — the 
1966 golden Mustang that 1 had read about in 
Jay Mclnemey's article on Paul in Vanity hair 

SA: He did like to travel in style. 

CN: And never lightly, always ten or twelve 
valises. He like to have lots of things to wear, I 
guess. 

SA: He wasn’t exactly trying to blend in. 

CN: No, in the ’50s, he would arrive in little desert 
towns with his driver, Temsamany, dressed in a 
cap and chauffeur’s outfit. He owned a Jaguar then. 

SA: Back to your first meeting. I’ve read Bowles’ 
description of his apartment in the Immuebe 
Itesa as being “visually neutral.” 

CN: Well it was visually dark, there were no 
lights in the hallways. When I found the bell 
and rang it, there was no sound. Just when I 
knocked, the door pulled open onto a chain-lock, 
and there was Paul peering out. I said, “1 am 
Cherie Nutting,” and the door slammed shut. He 
was just unlatching the chain — he did let me in. 
SA: Did you have your camera? 

CN: Of course, 1 flashed a picture the moment the 
door opened! His first vision of me was with a 
camera in front of my face. 

SA: Eventually you spent some time living in the 
same building. 



CN: Yes, I lived below him in Jane Bowles’ old 
apartment, number 15. He was above me in num- 
ber 20. It was nice. We could knock to say 
goodnight to each other. I would go bang, bang 
and he would go bang, bang, bang. 

SA: It sounds like the Count of Monte Cristo. What 
about his hypersensitivity to sound? 

CN: He had a very particular sleeping arrangement. 
He liked the head of his bed to face north. He wore 
a mask and ear plugs and locked himself in his 
room. And then there was this machine he had 
constructed beside his bed. It was a fan precari- 
ously balanced with a coat hanger and a piece 
of string linked to a taifor, which is a low, metal 
Moroccan table. 

SA: I like this, it’s very Duchampian. Tell me more. 

CN: Once I touched it by mistake, and he almost 
had a heart attack, telling me that it was all placed 
so that the sound was the exact same frequency 
as the dogs that howled all night in the street. If it 
moved even slightly the frequency would change. 

SA: Bowles said he thought of his childhood self 
as a “registering consciousness.” He fantasized that 
there was an audience behind his eyes, much like 
in a theater. He constructed elaborate imaginary 
diaries in code, and a little later, practiced the sur- 
realistic method of automatic writing. He seemed 
to be looking for a way to describe the world from 
outside of himself. 

CN: What you’re tallcing about was very evident 
in his relationship with Mrabet. 

SA: Bowles translated Mrabet’s tales from Darija 
Arabic, the unwritten language spoken in Morocco, 
and brought them to publication. 

CN: Mrabet and Bowles also had a language of 
their own invention. They conversed in symbols. 
Mrabet’s everyday speech had an abstract quality. 
He spoke in parables. Paul loved Mrabet’s concept 
of the world as a dual reality. Moroccans can be 
very direct, but more often they speak in a contra- 
dictory, circular fashion. Paul uses that funny quote 
in his book. The Sj’ider's House. 

SA: I have it right here, an old Moroccan saying: 

You tell me you are going to Fez. 

Now if you say you are going to Fez 
That means you are not going. 

But 1 happen to know that you are going to Fez. 

Why have you lied to me, you who are my friend? 

CN: It was so much fun trying to decipher what 
those two were talking about. As an only child, I 
had my own secret club, so I knew a little bit about 
the business. I was president and sole member of 
the Golden Eagles. I had a cash box for the dues, 
but no one ever answered the roU call. I alone spoke 
the secret language. 

SA: On two memorable occasions, you introduced 
me to Bowles in Morocco. One thing I found very 
interesting was the way he responded to the words 
one spoke, not always to their implied meaning. 
At no one’s real expense, he seemed to be able to 
reflect casual speech back, and get a good laugh 
out of the absurdities inherent in the language. 




PAUL BOWLES AND CHERIE NUTTING, 1988 PHOTO: STEVE DIAMOND 



PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 I PAGE 



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Provincetown, MA 02657 
508-487-3414 • fax: 508-487-6518 



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CN: Yes, here is an example. He was angry with 
me for something, and Paul rarely tells you di- 
recdy when he’s angry. He is subde, so one has 
to look and listen closely. He's very hard to read. 
Well, 1 walked into the room one day and came 
right out with it. “Paul, are you mad at me?” 
“MiiiP” he questioned, “Only dogs are mad, of 
course I’m not mad!” He was “angry,” but we 
worked it out later. 

SA: Yesterday's Perfume is difficult to classify. How 
would you explain it? 

CN: Well, the first thing you have to understand 
is that the book is very personal and subjective. 
In this sense, it is not strictly about Paul Bowles. 
It’s more of an autobiography of my relation- 
ship with Paul. With photography, with text, and 
other materials. I’ve recorded our responses to 
one another. It's a memoir of a time and a place, 
a time and a place that is already racing away 
from me. When I first met Paul, he was elderly, 
but still seemed fairly young, and 1 was a young 
woman. Now I’m a middle-aged woman, and 
Paul is gone. Simply put, we went through some 
of life’s changes together. 

SA: In one portrait from the book, we can see in 
Bowles’ eyes twin images of you, the 
photographer, bent over your tripod, looking 
through the lens at us, or, more appropriately, at 
Bowles. We are somehow sandwiched in an instant 
between you two. Possession and the 
transmutation of identities are relevant themes in 
Bowles’ writing. How would you describe your 
relationship with Bowles? 

CN: It was a love affair of the heart, and although 
we were physically very affectionate, it wasn’t 
consummated in the sexual sense. Paul had been 
married and very devoted to his wife Jane. They 
were unique individuals in a special relationship. 
Paul, for one, hated to be labeled — gay, straight, 
or bisexual, there was no one quite like him. When 
Jane died, Paul said, “All the fun is over.” Still, I 
think we had a little fun. 

SA: Let’s talk a little more about The Sheltering Shy. 
As Bowles tells it he drew from his experience with 
the drug majouii in writing the death scene of his 
protagonist. Port Moresby. It is one of the most 
memorable scenes I have ever read. What exactly 
is majouiP 

CN: Majoun is made from the female cannabis 
plant. It’s mixed into a paste with honey and 
dates and eaten. It can be quite strong. Port, in 
The Sheltering Shy, dies from typhoid. Paul had 
typhoid years earlier, and with the memory of 
that experience and the majonn, he worked out 
much of the death scene. But don’t get the wrong 
idea, Paul wasn’t much of a drug taker, nor was he 
a drinker. He smoked a bit of hif and that was all. 

SA: In the late ’80s, the celebrities were again turn- 
ing up in Bowles’ milieu. Bertolucci was in Tangier 
to film The Sheltering Shy, along with John 
Malkovich and Debra Winger. The Rolling Stones 
were back in town. It must have been very ex- 
citing. But the real star for me was your second 
husband, Bachir Attar. 



CN: I met Bachir in Paul’s apartment. He is the 
hereditary leader of the Master Musicians of 
JaJouka. JaJouka is an ancient music tradition with 
sources from pre-Islamic times. The Stones came 
to Morocco because of Bachir. They wanted to 
record a track with him for their album, “Steel 
Wheels.” Bachir is a hero and a credit to his coun- 
try, for he has saved his music and brought it to 
the Western world. 

SA: I still have the album — The Fibres of Pan — that 
Brian Jones recorded with Bachir’s father. You 
could make a case for it being the first album of 
the world music genre. 

CN: That was made in 1969. Brain died shordy 
before the Stones released the record in 1970. | 

Bachir and I re-released it in 1995. Paul had very 
little interest in rock music, yet Mick brought the 
BBC to his apartment to film an interview. 

SA: Bowles made his last trip to the States in 1995. 
CN: For the Jonatlran Sheffer performance of his 
music with the Eos Orchestra. 

SA: Yes, Bowles the composer. There was an 
“Evening with Paul Bowles” at the New School 
for Social Research. He was interviewed by the 
composer Phillip Ramey. They were a perfect 
team. The audience was awestruck with Bowles’ 
sharp wit. Ramey had all the right cues. They 
worked the room like George Burns and Gracie 
Allen. 

CN: That’s what Paul loved about Phillip. Phillip 
was able to do that with people, draw them out. 
Paul can just sit and say nothing at times. He 
chose people like Phillip and Mrabet and me to 
create a commotion. He liked to be entertained 
by a scene, as long as he felt he wasn’t involved, 
but of course, he always was. 

SA: You last saw Paul in August 1999. 

CN: Yes, he was fading. His body was falling apart, 
his eyesight, his hearing, yet his brain was per- 
fectly sharp. We said a just-in-case goodbye, but I 
really thought I’d see him for his birthday on the 
30th of December. I guess he didn’t want to have 
anything to do with this new millennium. 
Abdelouahid, who looked after him for many 
years, said, “The last thing he wanted to hear be- 
fore he died was the sound of the cicadas.” So 
Abdelouahid went out with a recorder and taped 
their music for him. 

SA: Yesterday's Perfume will be published in No- 
vember 2000. What’s next for you? 

CN: Oh, now that my hero is dead! ... Nothing 
drastic I hope. I have no new dreams, nothing. 

SA: Sounds like you've caught that existential bug. 
CN: Actually, I ’ve been living on the road for so I 
long, the idea of settling into a comfortable studio 
with a darkroom sounds very attractive. 



Steidien Aihen is an artist and director of'Z34' 
Gallery at Hannah in Wellfleet. 



PAGE 54 I PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 





Post-Chelsea 

Girls 

CAROLINE CRUMPACKER 



‘1 like poets who relate to sex as an unpredictable force. Some 
of the women 1 like the best are taking big risks with ugliness.” 

— Eileen Myles 

P oet, novelist, and activist Eileen Myles, so de- 
servedly celebrated in this issue of Provincetown 
Arts, has explored gender and sexuality in poetry 
and prose for a quarter century. Her work, with its 
graphic, radical investigations, has opened a space 
for a wide range of new writing from what might 
be considered feminist perspectives. Since Myles 
first began writing, feminism, or the generally 
unmoored concept of post-feminism, has become 
more of a donnee for most young writers, though 
the relations between authority, power, and 
patriarchy have not been terribly disturbed. This 
puts women writers in the awkward position of 
writing within a framework that is already 
“converted,” though not always truly sympathetic. 
From this precarious situation has come edgy new 
work that meets the demands of the current 
environment and agitates poetry and poetics, not 
to mention cocktail parties, into new terrain. 

The most exciting of today’s writing that is, 
among other ambitions, politically feminist, must 
be very shrewd — not didactic, but interrogative, 
and redefining the interplay of language, form, and 
gender. 1 spoke with four young poets at the fore- 
front of New York circles who are conducting con- 
fident investigations of gender in their work as 
poets and arbiters to get a lively cross-section of 
their ideas. Each is political, but playful, informing 
a contemporary dialogue on poetics, including but 
not “limited” to how we understand gender. 

Katy Lederer is a quizzical, lapidary poet who has 
published widely, including a chapbook entitled 
Music, No Staves. Lederer edits the Poetry Project 
Newsletter and the poetry magazine Exfriosive and, as 
editor and pubUsher of Spectacular Books, has issued 
chapbooks by writers including Leslie Scalapino. 
Lederer is a thorough, curious, and deeply responsible 
editor. She notes, “Editing the Poetr)’ Project Newsletter, 
it can be difficult to find reviewers who are women 
or people of color. These people write books and 
then white men review them, which 1 like — white 
men reading all these books by women and people 
of color. But it means that there is a difference 
between who is writing and who is setting the terms. 
This can be problematic.” 

Concurrently, Lederer evaluates the terms for 
her own poetic practice with a skeptical eye. “1 
reached a stage a few years ago where 1 felt badly 
about my work because it seemed too ‘femmey,’” 
she says. “Then 1 realized that I had been 
comparing it to male work, that compared to poets 
like O’Hara who reference public things, cultural 
objects, or symbols in their work, mine was more 
interior. There’s a lot of prejudice against work that 
is interior or ‘pretty,’ and at some point 1 realized 
that this is a gendered issue, and I decided to 
embrace the ephemeral nature of my work — it 



could be as strong and powerful as anything that 
men are writing.” 

Lederer’s poetry intelligently, elegantly, pushes 
the boundaries (real and imagined) of aesthetic and 
social terrain, as in “An Ancient Conception,” 
which reads, in part: 

TTere are two of them — 

One is temporal and dark — the other parades herself 
One is especially fit to give birth 
To the ancient conception of love — 

She 
is in 
distress 

She 
is as 

likely a horse 

as a dress 

Lee Ann Brown is a poet and editor of Tender 
Buttons Press, publishing Harryette Mullen and 
Anne Waldman, among others. Brown’s long- 
awaited first book, Polyverse, came out last year 
from Sun & Moon Press. The book is exquisite, 
reflecting her delight in the variousness of linguistic 
and sensual play. Brown discusses this play in 
relation to feminist theory. “I remember when 1 
first encountered French feminist theory, 1 felt this 
huge recognition. 1 loved the way Luce Irigaray 
talked about the body and about language. Irigaray 
says that women can never be defined. I didn’t 
want to be defined in my own writing. I want the 
text to be as multiplicitous as possible, I want it to 
be something different for everyone who reads it. 
Or Helene Cixous talks about feminine writing: I 
want my writing to be very feminine.” 

In “Crush,” for Bernadette Mayer (to whom the 
book is also dedicated). Brown exhibits her buoy- 
ant, kaleidoscopic, sensual gender play: 

We are daughters of enthusiasm. 

With tenderness and dancing. 

With late night storming. 

Excitement sisters 

Where are my excitement sisters. 

At work they are all at work. 

We want to talk late into the night. 

We want to play tenderly with boys also. 

I asked Brown if her multiplicity of meanings 
can make for problematic readings and she replied, 
“There have been some weird reviews about ‘femi- 
nine’ knowledge, calling my work ‘flip.’ 1 think 
my work has a very deliberate, radical playfulness 
to it that is not privileged by patriarchal ways of 
learning.” 

Prageeta Sharma is a fierce poet. Her first book. 
Bliss to Fill, published by Subpress Collective, with 
its reference to Emily Dickinson and its collection 
of both melancholic and defiant love poems, situ- 
ates itself as both historical and grrrrrl-y. She says, 
“I am interrogating an awkward self in my po- 
ems — it’s about gender and Indian identity both. 
In some ways it’s a more inclusive poetics. Women 
and people of color will always read what we’re 
not. We’re reading the white men — the systems 
of power dictate that you must read your oppres- 
sors. This gives us an edge, we know both sides 
and we can see the mechanisms of the exclusion- 
ary at work.” She continues, “I think women are a 
little bit more discerning about what they’re putting 



out there in terms of the public self right now. Men 
are just putting it all out there, because they can.” 
Her writing is infused with this quality of ob- 
servation, as in “Heroic,” here in part: 

I know now that I am placed against settling, 
made for travel, so that a horse become this house or the 

compliments 

speak from the city itself. This comforts me and I 
have been there to date their women. 

In “The All-Purpose Rock Star,” she writes: 

He was a pensive, he was expensive. 

It was him and not the drummer or the second 

guitar, but how loosely, a tiny manifesto 

created a pensive persona, how when he was a choir — 

he was cabaret. 

And cinnamon to marry honey, his own cold feet to miss. 
Now the maturity of things, the refinery; the older 

fashioning of a chameleon 

to artist. 

Brenda Shaughnessy’s first book, Interior with 
Sudden Joy, gives her the dubious honor of being 
one of two living women poets on the distin- 
guished though inconsistent list of Farrar, Straus 
& Giroux. Her writing is feverishly precise. The 
theatrical use of diction, the self-styled evolu- 
tion of words, make her lesbian love lyrics as 
linguistically brilliant as they are confidently 
randy. She says, “I really love graphic sexual po- 
ems. I believe in pornography. I believe in women 
expressing their sexuality through erotic repre- 
sentation but doing that is problematic — it’s a 
limited arena for women. I use language very 
deliberately, to put intellectual weight on the 
poems and get myself out of that trap. I slip lan- 
guage on purpose in my poems — it’s my way of 
transgressing problematic concepts of gendered 
sexual and sexualized writing.” 

An example of Shaughnessy’s ability to be eru- 
dite, pointed, polemical, mannered, sexual, and 
smoky, all at once, from “Postfeminism”: 

Now that is too kind. It’s technical: virgins and wolves. 

We have choices now. Two little girls walk into a bar, 

One orders a shirley temple. Shirley Temple's pimp 
Comes over and says you won’t be sorry. She’s a fine 

Piece of work but she doesn’t come cheap. Myself, I’m 
In less fear of predators than walking around 

in my mother’s body. That’s sneaky, that’s more 
than naked. Let’s even it up: You go on fuming in your 

gray room. I am voracious alone. Black and loose, 
metallic lingerie. And rare black-topped cigarettes. 

The inequities of patriarchy still inform the 
business of poetry — men and women are reviewed 
and rewarded differently even as the influence and 
number of books published by women has increased. 
Each of the four poets here is, at the beginning of 
what will surely be long and various careers, 
sharpening the role of feminist politics in 
contemporary poetry within its current parameters, 
possibilities, and contradictions. Sharma notes, 
“Sometimes I think we’re engaging in aO this talk 
about styLstic and ambitious issues as a way not to 
talk about gender.” These poets are talking about it. 

Caroline Cruinfmker is a poet who lives in Manhattan. 
She is co-Poetr)’ Editor of Fence magazine and 
Managing Director of the Poetr\< Society of America. 



NECEE REGIS 



Eye Spy Miami 



Saturday, January 22, 2000 

Went to such Miami scenes tonight. It’s high season 
now, like Provincetown in August. 

First was the opening of a new “collection” of 
art. It’s trendy among local collectors to buy a ware- 
house and convert it into an exhibition space — 
sometimes open to the public and sometimes not. 
Marty Margulies now joins the club, along with 
the Rubells and Mickey Wolfson, with his huge 
warehouse filled with a varied, exceptional and in- 
telligendy installed collection of sculpture and pho- 
tography. I can't imagine all this stuff in piles around 
his house, but my friend Alyx assures me it was all 
really there. It must be great for him to see it all up 
with breathing room. The opening coincided with 
Art Miami weekend, the big and mostly boring 
brouhaha at the Miami Beach Convention Center. 
Tonight's event was lavishly catered, though un- 
fortunately, I had eaten pasta at home first. Most of 
the crowd was wearing black, just like in Boston 
and New York, except that here the heels are high 
and the hair is BIG. A bit subdued scene, though. 

The next event, in Little Havana, was just the 
opposite — an opening of a new experimental per- 
formance art center called Space 742. Outside, 
live Afro-Cuban percussion music, alternating 
with the synthesized improvisations of DJ 
LeSpam and his multi-turntable concoctions. It 
was a young, milling crowd. A vendor was sell- 
ing used books, mainly plays for some unknowTi 
reason, and boxes of records. Inside, a poet named 
Adrian Castro give an animated reading, reflecting 
his Cuban and Dominican roots. He bills himself as 
a "poet, perfomier, and interdisciplinary artist,” and 
1 can see why. His poems are physical, rhythmic, 
perfomied in English with lots of Spanish interwo- 
ven. His bio., after a list of die grants he’s won and 
the places he’s published, ends witlr this: “He is a 
member of Keith Antar Mason and Hittite Empire 
[tlieater collectives] . . . also a practicing herbalist and 
Babalawo." Welcome to Miami. 

Also heard Alyx's friend Gustavo Matamoros 
play. Gustavo is a composer. “As a composer. I’m 
exploring what are the functions of sound. I think 
of sound first, and don't worry too much about 
the relationships between sounds.” Tonight he 
was playing the saw. accompanied by a dancer 
named Helena Thevenot. The room, walls 
painted black, was illuminated by dozens of red 
candles. There were red and white helium bal- 
loons hugging the ceiling, ribbons dangling, and 
red carnations strewn across the floor. Helena’s 
skin was all painted white, and she wore a red 
dress with a black net crinoline underneath. As 
she danced. I couldn't stop worrying that she was 
going to set herself on fire. She perfomis a dance 
technique inspired by Japanese theater, called 




Butoh. Anyway, it was very tortured and in 
slooooowww motion. I mainly enjoyed the saw. 
Gustavo gets these wonderful vibrating notes over- 
laid with short, staccato bursts. He plays it with a 
cello bow, the handle end between his legs, the 
metal end arched with his free hand. The sounds 
are incredibly resonant and moving as they hover 
in the air. The saw is from Switzerland and has 
“Stradivarius” inscribed on it with a picture of a 
fish. He says he bought the saw for the fish. 

My favorite performance of the evening, after 
the saw, was the “Cartoon Guy” (my term). He 
used one of those old-fashioned classroom overhead 
projectors where you write on clear plastic sheets 
and it projects die writing on the wall. Anyway, while 
DJ LeSpam was doing his music thing. Cartoon Guy 
was drawing and projecting onto the building’s 
exterior wall. He would draw some character with a 
marshmallow head, then go over the same image 
widi a different color, dien pull the images apart. Then 
put diem back. Lil<e a very rudimentary animation. 
They were funny and fast. His stamina and 
imagination were just flowing out of his head and 
hand and leaping onto the wall. Sometimes you 
would see the shadow of his hand and the pen 
projected too. It was very fresh and fun. All under 
die full moon. Sometimes I just love Miami. 

Sunday, February 27, 2000 

Yesterday was a whirlwind. Gustavo played the 
saw again at the Museum of Contemporary Art 
in North Miami. He sat under this huge Frank 
Stella sculpture, designed like a swirling, linear 
bandshell. It’s like Stella cut spiraling lines into 
a flat piece of paper and then pulled and twisted 
up from the center, to make a hollow space within. 
Like some gnome’s house in a Grimm’s fairy tale. 
But not scary. All white and shiny. Anyway, 
Gustavo was under this thing, and it seemed very 
appropriate. 

This was part of the Museum’s “Teen Day,” and 
Miami artists were there with various participatory 



projects. The energy around the place was 
tremendous. Michelle Weinberg, formerly of 
Provincetown and the Fine Arts Work Genter, was 
showing kids how to draw on and alter slides — 
working on a tiny scale, then projecting the images 
large. Their work was inspiring. All the adult artists 
wandering by had to restrain themselves from 
pushing the kids aside and taking over. Outside, 
there were more tables and music and projects. 
Adalberto Delgado worked with piles of magazines 
and paper and ink and lacquer thinner, doing Xerox 
transfers a la Rauschenberg. And Robert Chambers 
led a huge project — building a remote-controlled 
robot. Teens performed dances within the spaces 
created by other Stella sculptures. It was the best 
use of Stella’s corporate, oversized brooches that 
I’ve ever seen. 

In the evening I headed over to the Miami Light 
Project’s “Here & Now” performance. The MLP is 
a non-profit group that presents live perfomrances 
by artists working in “innovative” spheres of music, 
dance, and theater. Last night featured a series of 
commissioned pieces by six artists. One was 
outstanding, two were really good, and three were 
either trite or unfathomable. Not such a bad 
proportion, actually. 

My fave piece, “CITAIRMANORBIT,” was by 
Raphael Roig. First, he slowly carried onto the 
stage, one by one, various orange-colored objects — 
an orb-shaped light on a cylindrical pedestal, a 
small, round transistor radio, a plastic lawn chair, 
and a tape recorder playing bird sounds. While 
placing the objects, he tells stories from his life, 
successfully interweaving the words and the props. 
In this twenty-minute piece he manages to talk 
about how he imagined God as a child, how his 
apartment fails every fcttg sliiii test (ultimately 
creating failure in his life), and how he is going to 
create a religion of one person, himself, based on 
the concept of “1 don’t know.” Finally, he emerged 
with a large orange plastic chair designed by Eero 
Arnio in 1969. A flattened sphere with an 
indentation for sitting, it also rolls on its edge quite 
nicely, and can be spun like a top. The climax comes 



PAGE 56 I PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 



when the lights go dark, then strobe, and we see 
him spinning around on the chair with arms 
outstretched, like a child flying. A gem. 

Last, 1 made a late-evening pit stop at a still- 
hopping opening at the Art Center of South Florida 
on Lincoln Road. The Art Center offers studios for 
artists, exhibitions, and community arts education. 
The exhibition 1 went to, “Preludes,” featured six 
artists recently juried into the program — again, a 
combination of competent, derivative, and 
inspired. But that’s much the same everywhere, 
isn’t it? The street-level gallery is on a lively 
pedestrian thoroughfare with galleries, shops, and 
alfresco dining drawing both tourists and residents. 
Every Saturday night, the Center artists, by 
requirement, keep open studios, while sometimes 
inebriated but mostly friendly tourists walk 
thought the hallways and gawk. It’s a little too 
much like monkeys at the zoo for my taste, but it 
seems to work for a lot of people so I’m really not 
complaining. 

March 2000 - Museum Madness 

Cruised on up to Lake Worth in Guillermo’s 
BMW last Saturday night. We were part of a 
long stream of cars heading north from Miami 
to the inaugural event of the new Palm Beach 
Institute of Contemporary Art. 

It was quite a scene — a mix of Palm Beach elites 
and young south Florida trendies, all mingling over 
drinks and art. If the food was more Palm Beach 
than South Beach (pigs-in-a-blanket, mini-quiche), 
the art was distinctly cutting edge. The show, 
“Making Time: Considering Time as a Material in 
Contemporary Video and Film,” curated by Amy 
Cappallazzo, who just left the directorship at the 
Rubell Family Collection, presents work from the 
’60s to the present by Nam June Paik, Andy 
Warhol, Diana Thater, Bruce Nauman, and about 
twenty-five others. 

The space itself was a dynamic element. 
Designed by the New York-based LOT/EK 
architectural firm, it’s more creative than any video 
installation I’ve ever seen. Downstairs were 
cocoon-like projection rooms lined with foam 
rubber walls and benches. Upstairs, a long, slanted, 
cushiony vinyl wall, with dangling earphones, 
encouraged viewers to lean and lounge while 
viewing a row of video monitors held by arm-like 
extensions on the opposite wall. It was so cushy, 
we couldn’t pull our friend James away from The 
Way Things Go, FischliAVeiss’s thirty-minute Rube 
Goldberg-esque film of a one-event-leads-to-the- 
next contraption involving fire, gases, water, falling 
ladders, rolling tires, and other studio 
paraphernalia. 

And who says Miamians are snobs who won’t 
cross the county line? The place was crawling with 
hip-eoisie, including big mucky-muck collectors 
(Don and Mira Rubell, Carlos and Rosa de la Cruz, 
Peter Menendez), museum directors (Diane Cam- 
ber of the Bass Museum, Bonnie Clearwater from 
Miami’s Museum of Contemporary Art), contem- 
porary gallery owners (Genaro Ambrosino and 
Frederic Snitzer), and packs of artists. Still, I did 
overhear one stylish young man say to his friends, 
“I’m so far north I've got a nosebleed.” 



Back in the heart of downtown Miami, the 
Miami Art Museum (MAM, affectionately) sits on 
an elevated plaza along with the Public Library and 
the Historical Society. Kudos must go to Museum 
Director Suzanne Delahanty, who has absolutely 
transformed the place since her 1995 arrival. 
Formerly the Center for Fine Arts, mainly a venue 
for traveling shows run by the county government, 
MAM is now a private, non-profit collecting 
museum focusing on art from 1945 to the present. 
MAM is also a great supporter of education, the 
local art scene, and local artists, eight of whom 
will soon be commissioned to create on-site 
installations through December 2001. In the 
courtyard the museum hosts its popular “JAM at 
MAM” live music series on the third Thursday of 
each month. It’s also where they put out a lavish 
spread at opening night soirees. One thing about 
MAM, they know how to throw a party. 

Last night 1 went to the preview fete for “About 
Face: Andy Warhol Portraits.” In addition to the 
expected iconic Pop images of Marilyn, Mao, and 
Jackie, there were many surprises. Like Georgia 
O’Keeffe in blue diamond dust on black Arches 
cover paper, and a small, gray and black acrylic 
silkscreen of “Liz as Cleopatra.” A screening room 
ran a continuous film loop of three Warhol films — 
Eat, Blow Job and Alario Banana. And under a large, 
now famous Warhol quote, “In the future every- 
body will be world famous for fifteen minutes,” a 
photographer snapped Polaroids of posing guests 
which were then mounted on the wall. 1 declined, 
not quite ready for my fifteen minutes right then. 
There’s a Miami Beach artist who has solved the 
fifteen-minute dilemma, legally changing his name 
to “World Famous.” Didn’t see him last night; 
maybe he thought people would try to be him. 

The place was packed with well over a thou- 
sand people, including the Miami City Mayor and 
a rep from the Attorney General’s Office. It was, 
surprisingly, a well-tailored, beige-and-white fash- 
ion crowd. Though I did see one shiny black patent 
leather suit worn with knee-high boots, and that 
was on a guy. One woman sported a black cape, 
black feathered cap a la Geronimo, and rhinestone 
studded spiky heels. And 1 admit to wanting to 
steal one woman’s Astroturf purse with tiny plas- 
tic pink roses. Live music in the courtyard was next 
to what can only be called a “food installation” 
designed by the Elan catering company’s chef/ 
owner David Schwandron. Pop Art was the theme, 
and the offerings included Tomato Soup Fondue, 
Chairman Mao Chicken Salad, and brightly dyed, 
hollow round bread loaves holding tasty, neon- 
colored dips. 

1 could go on and on but 1 have to stop some- 
where. I’ll be busy next month catching events at 
Miami’s Experimental Music Festival, “Subtropics,” 
and I hear that MoCA has a good show opening 
soon. So stop me on the street in Provincetown 
this summer if you want an update — 1 love to talk 
about Miami, my other home town. 

Necee Regis is a visual artist whose recent obsessions 
include jet airj’lanes, writing, and learning how to ride 
a bicycle in oj’en-toe sf’ike heels. She divides her time 
between the Outer Caj’e, Boston, and Miami Beach. 




Peter Edmonds 

Custom Hat Designs 

Mad As A Hatter, Inc. 

360 Comercial Street 
Provincetown 
Mass. 02657 USA 
(508) 487 - 4063 



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PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 I PAGE 57 




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PAGE 58 I PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 









West End 



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complete dinners offering salad, entree, desert, and 
coffee. Alfredo, formerly head chef at Franco’s and 
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BAYSIDE BETSY’S 487-6566 
Waterfront dining with brilliant harbor views. An 
eclectic menu serving native lobsters, fresh sea- 
food, prime rib, and innovative pasta dishes. 
BUBALA’S BY THE BAY 487-0773 
Restaurant veterans John Yingling and Noreen 
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lighting, water views, late night music, and a side- 
walk cafe accompanying serious food at sensible 
prices. Late night fare and a lively bar. Open Spring 
to Fall, with parking in the center of town. 
GALLERANI’S 487-4433 
A warm and friendly place where you feel at home, 
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through Sunday off-season. 

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PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 I PAGE S9 









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salad, potato and vegetable or pasta, 
fresh bread & butter, cofl'ee & dessert 

Kiddie Konier: $4.95 
Serving 5:30 - 9;00pm ^ 

Landing Lounge Open Nightly 

Blackboard Specials 
Free Parking 

AT LHE PROVINCETOWN INN 

1 Commercial Street, Provincetovvn 

Reservations; 487-9500 



“A Provincetown tradition, 
where Arts & Artists 
come together. 




LOBSTER 

POT 



Waterfront Dining 
harborside at 
321 Commercial Street 

508-487-0842 
email: lpot@wn.net 
www.ptownnlobsterpot.com 







As always, 
serving your favori-te 
breakfast & lunch. . . 

Now introducing our weekly 
continental dinner menu 
featuring 

the finest quality meats & 
freshest seafoods 
. . .and of 
course crea 
your own pasta 
dishes & gour- 
met burger with our 
Pasta and Hamburger 
Heaven. 

Full service bar 

Breakfast & Lunch Sam to 3pm 
Dinner Nightly 0:3Opm to lOpm 

For Delivery Call 467-4300 
199 Commercial Street 4-S7-9039 





A frosty blend of Coffee, Coffee BuzzBuzzBuzz!, 
ice cream S’ rich, creamy coffee ^ 



VERMONT’S FiMBSS;.- 




Try a 

Cool^ 

Crazy 

RElkL 



4 new flavors! 



ERinrS. 

VERMONT’S FINEST™ • ICE CREAM ^ FROZEN YOSURT . 



258 Commercial Street 



Next to Town Hall Provincetown 



PAGE 60 I PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 




euRO 

(HU 



258 Commercial Street 
487 2505 



Cafe 

Edwige 




gourmet breakfast 
& 

fine dining 



333 Commercial Street 
upstairs 
487-2008 



CAFE EDWIDGE 487-2008 

Fresh, local ingredients creatively prepared. Dine 
in a charming room with soaring ceilings and waOs 
showcasing local art. Spectacular breakfasts. Don’t 
miss the tofu special, the homemade pastry, or 
the Bloody Marys. 

CAFE EURO 487-2505 

Once a church, then a movie theater, the Euro 
has a style all its own. Enjoy delicious salads, grilled 
fish, chicken, burgers, and Greek specialties on 
the spacious patio. 

CAFE HEAVEN 487-9639 
Breakfast served all day. Fresh-squeezed juices; 
lunch and dinner, too. Ham, roast beef and tur- 
key are freshly baked on the premises, and all 
desserts are homemade with plenty of seasonal 
fruits. Paintings John Grillo. Full service bar. 
FRONT STREET 487-9715 
A romantic and elegant bistro located in the brick 
cellar of a Victorian mansion. Front Street has a 
well-earned reputation as one of Provincetown's 
finest restaurants. Chef/owner Donna Aliperti pro- 
vides an intriguing change of menu weekly, 
complemented by an extensive wine list. Italian 
menu, too. Dinner until 11, bar until 1. 
GEORGIE PORGIE’S 487-1610 
New York bagels at Land’s End. 

LITTLE DEB’S CAFE 487-1200 
Robust coffee, homemade desserts, country fresh 
eggs, curried chicken salad, hearty sandwiches, 
green salads. All at the perfect perch for people 
watching — just across from the Post Office. 
LOBSTER POT 487-0842 
Owned and managed by the McNulty family, this 
bustling restaurant serves some of the best fresh 
seafood in town. Chef Tim McNulty’s clam chow- 
der won the Cape Cod Chowder Contest four 
years running. Try a cocktail at the “Top of the 
Pot,” the second-floor bar with a fabulous view of 
the harbor and fishing boats. You can’t miss the 
red neon lobster signs. Open all year. 

NAPI’S 487-1145 

Dubbed “Provincetown’s most unusual restau- 
rant,” Napi’s has plenty on which to feast the eye 
and the palate. Owners Napi and Helen van 
Dereck have embellished their restaurant with 
their extensive collection of Provincetown art and 
artifacts. The menu features international, local, 
and vegetarian cuisine. Lunch and dinner off- 
season, dinner only in-season. Parking. 




Alice Foley & Devon Ruesch 
Proprietors 

401 '/2 Commercial Street 
Provincetown, MA 02657 
(508) 487-4773 




Sal’s Place 

Proviiicetowii’.s Italian Re.staiirant By The Sea 

()ur37llj Season 




An lusiders's Guide to Gape God and the Islands 

99 Commercial Street • 487 - 1279 

In the West End ~ Open Aig/it/y 




Coffee ~ Pastries ~ Beautiful Cakes 
Salads ~ Sandwiches 
Lunches to go 



129 Bradford Street 
Provi NCETOWN ~ (508) 487-9331 




ANGEL FOODS 



• Fresh Meats • Orgatiic Produce 

• In-Store Bakery • Fresh Seafood 

• Prepared Foods • Natural Cmocery 

Open Daily - 8:00 am 

467 Commercial Sneer Provincetown 487-6666 



PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 I PAGE 61 









C A r K A' K A r T () R I A 
I .UNCH & OlNNl K 

57 1-37 3 Commi;kciai Sikhih 
Pi I'l ’s VVnARi , Pro\ iNorrowN 
487 0900 




% 'N 






On The 
Waterfront 

Casuat/Fine Dining 



rcat Food, Cocktails 
and Conversation. 




• <■< 

Lunch 11:30-4 
Dinner 5-10 



177 Commercial fit* Provincetown • 487-6566 


















IT OOP ^><-r>]?IJMl< ^ 



Contemporary American Cuisine with an international yet classic 
flair in a charming ca 1740 harborside house and garden. 

Cape Cod Life’s 1 999 & 2000 Best of the Cape & Islands Readers’ Poll 

“The Best Fine Dining on the Outer Cape” 

Other recent recommendations include: 

The New York Times, The Boston Globe, and Zagat 



Open Year 
Round 




Reservations 

487-1327 



1 57 Commercial Street, on the Atiantic Street Landing, Provincetown 
http.www.themartinhouse.com 



PAGE 62 ! PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 





East End 




,^C?^>LimE 
' DEB’S 
J/) CAFE 

214 COMMERCIAL 5T 
Provincetown, Ma. 02657 
503 - 437- 1200 



THE 

CRITICS ARE 
TALKING 



Award of Excellence, Wine Spectator 
Featured and Recommended, New York Times 
Editor's Choice, Out & About 



CHESTER 



RESTAURANT 
beautiful food, intriguing wines 




Look for the dog on the sign at 
404 Commercial Street 
Reservations suggested 487.8200 or 
www.ChesterRestaurant.com 



ANGEL FOODS 

Our very own gourmet grocery in a beautifully 
restored historic building. Temptations for every- 
one from the quick picnic-packer to the four-star 
chef. Delectable prepared foods, in-house bakery, 
organic fruits and veggies, beer and wine. The ice 
cream selection is unsurpassed. 

DANCING LOBSTER 487-0900 
Located at Pepe’s Wharf, where the Berg family 
has operated Pepe's since 1967, the Dancing Lob- 
ster is happy and at home. The prodigal chef, Pepe 
Berg, has returned to the family wharf after earn- 
ing a stellar reputation at previous locations in 
Provincetown at Marina's Wharf and the Flagship 
Wharf. European care in every detail, reasonable 
prices, casual elegance. Waterfront dining room 
and deck overlooking the bay. Lunch and dinner. 
Long Season. 

THE COMMONS 487-7800 

Menu features handmade gourmet pizzas from the 
wood burning oven, fire-roasted free-range 
chicken, fresh native seafood, and French-style 
Bistro grilled steak, as well as vegetarian dishes. 
Emphasis on fresh ingredients and flavorful prepa- 
rations. The restaurant has a casual but sophisti- 
cated ambience with a dining room overlooking 
Commercial Street, as well as delightful canopied 
upper deck for outdoor dining in warmer weather. 
A bonus; fine wines by the glass, also cappuccino 
and espresso, and be sure to check out the tiny 
but friendly street-side bar. 

CHESTER 487-8200 

Mediterranean-inspired, seasonal American food 
in a weekly-changing menu highlights locally and 
regionally procured seafood, vegetables, and 
meats. The restaurant’s garden supplies fresh herbs 
and produce and the wine list features 100 high- 
quality and unusual bottlings. Open mid-May 
through New Year’s. 

LITTLE FLUKE CAFE 487-4773 
Eggs Benedict “Little Fluke” is a terrific way to start 
the day. Dine with a water view or outdoors with 
an eye on Commercial Street. Breakfast daily and 
dinner Tuesday through Saturday. 

THE MEWS 487-1500 



The Mews, now in its sixth season in this won- 
derful waterfront location, continues to serve ex- 
cellent food in elegant surroundings. Upstairs, Cafe 
Mews offers a more casual menu featuring piz- 
zas, pasta, and roasted chicken. Off-season, catch 
the popular Monday night coffeehouses hosted 
by Peter Donnelly. Open all year. 

MICHAEL SHAYS 487-3368 
Shay’s serves three meals a day in a cozy, tradi- 
tional New England atmosphere. Eresh seafood and 
char-broiled prime meats a specialty. ExceOent salad 
bar. Quality food at moderate prices. Early dinner 
specials served 5-7 p.m. Plenty of parking. 





‘Mickaet Shay's 



RIB 

& 

SEAFOOD 

HOUSE 

You ’ll find a fresh 
country atmosphere 
when dining at 
Michael Shay ’s 
for Breakfast, Lunch 
and Dinner 




Casual and friendly, 
specializing in fresh 
local seafood 
and char-broiled 
prime meats. 



We boast of generous portions 
at affordable prices, featuring 
our huge homemade salad bar. 



There’s plenty of free parking 
and easy access 

DINNER PRICES 
are MODERATE 




350 BRADFORD STREET 
PROVINCETOWN, MA 02657 

( 508 ) 487-3368 



PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 I PAGE 63 




























Still evolving after 28 years 



...total new menu 

PROVINCETOWN’S OUTDOOR CAFE 
328 COMMERCIAL ST. 



PAGE 64 I PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 




TRURO 



“Wonderful” 

-ZAGAT 



“One of the East’s most remarkable, 
delightful and delicious destinations.” 




“One of the most 
outstanding wine lists...” 

-The Wink Spectator 




“Best Cape and Island Restaurant” 
-Boston Magazine 

Front Street 



230 Commercial Street • Provincetown MA 
Reservations (508) 487- 9715 



COMMONS 




GUESTHOUSE 

Bistro • Bar 

“One of Provincetown’s best up 
and coming new restaurants.” 

— Frommers 

“Highly Recommended” 
“Gloriously restored... Killer water views” 
— Out and About 

386 Commercial Street, Provincetown 

508 487.7800 800 487.0784 



ADRIAN’S 487-4360 



On a bluff overlooking Provincetown Harbor, 
Adrian’s serves fabulous breakfasts and dinners 
with the freshest ingredients on an outdoor deck 
or in an airy dining room. Regional Italian fare 
featuring gourmet pizzas prepared in a wood-fired 
brick oven. Free parking. Seasonal. 



WELLFLEET 



AESOPS’S TABLES 349-6450 

Enjoy coastal cuisine with fresh local ingredients 
creatively prepared and artfully presented. Unique 
dining rooms and outdoor terrace in this fomier 
governor's mansion. The upstairs bar serves tavern 
fare and fine spirits amid divinely comfortable 
divans and armchairs. Seasonal. 




Steamed Lobsters • LOBSTER POOL 



We’re Proud to Offer 
The Freshest & Widest 
Selection of Locally Caught 

FISH & PRODUCE 

Try our own Smoked Fish 
and Mussels & Pate 



HATCH’S PRODUCE 

Fresh Fruits • Vegetables • Fferbs 
Homemade Pesto • Fruit Popsicles 
Daily Picked Corn • Flowers • Salsa 




w i Produce 
^ 349-6734 



Fish 

349-2810 

310 MAIN STREET 
BEHIND TOWN HALL 

WELLFLEET 





All Year Round! 




3V 

AS //AS hni.sli. 
IIIKUjIiKlIiOII 
Iti.S jtdUUc ... 



Laurence de Freitas. Executive Chef, creates 
culinary masterpieces on magnificent 
Provincetown Harbor 



Join us and savor his Seared 4 Peppercorn 
Crusted Tuna. Rack of Lamb over Soft Herb 
Polenta Roasted Half Duckling with an Asian 
Sweet and Spicy Glaze and a host of other 
culinary inspirations In the Cafe, the menu 
includes gourmet burgers individual pizzas, 
oven poached cod Grilted 10oz. Sirloin Strip 
and much more 



Each dish is individually crafted with an eye 
towards an artful presentaton and the tasteful 
palate 

Taste life! 

Also featuring New En^and’s largest selection of vodkas! 
(ov«r SO drff«rentvart«ti«sand many spaciahyjumbo martim&E) 

Dinner nightly from 6pm 
Lunch,/Bfunch 11 - 2 30pm 
Saturdays, Sundays & 

Holiday Mondays. 

487.1500 

429 Commercial Street 
www.mavs.com 




THE KIND OF PLACE YOU^VE 
BEEN SEARCHING FOR... 




Dinner 

Every night in season 

6 - 10:30 

Open Til 1 1:00 
Friday & Saturday evenings 

1 33 Commercial St, 
Provincetown 
487-4433 

Free evening parking at Flyers Boat yard, in the rear 



PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 I PAGE 65 








Utopian Things Can 
Happen: An Interview 
with Maria Burks about 

the Highlands Center 

JENNIFER LIESE 



The former North Truro Air Force Station, the fledgling 
Highlands Center for the Arts and Environment, is currently 
nothing but a ghost town of decrepit barracks on cracked 
pavement. Built in the 1 950s and '60s, the easternmost "early 
warning" facility for tracking incoming missiles and Soviet 
spy planes, the Station was demilitarized in 1 984 and conveyed 
to the Cape Cod National Seashore in 1 994. It employed 500 
at its peak, and if all goes according to plan, as many artists, 
scientists, and students will commune here in the future. The 
transformation will be momentous, not only physically, but 
philosophically — a corpse of the Cold War reformed into a 
place born of creation, rather than destruction. 

On a late-winter tour, the only sound is the intermittent 
whoosh of a civilian FAA radar dome. Broken-down camou- 
flage trucks, dismantled lifeguard chairs, and rolls of rusty 
chainlink fence dot the landscape. The doors of the fifty-seven 
buildings here are stenciled: "KEEP OUT — OFF LIMITS," and 
upon defying such threats, one discovers they are not idle. 
Inside the living quarters are shards of glass and shreds of 
insulation, gaping holes in the walls, and a stench that, my 
tour guide informs me, emanates from mildew or dead ani- 
mals and the excrement they left before their demise. In a 
room called the "Theater" (more likely the site of strategy 
sessions than skit nights), urinals, sinks, and water foun- 
tains are strung with tape marked, "do not use, secured and 
pickled." Inside a plant that once produced steam heat for 
the base, ancient turbine engines hang from the ceiling. Look- 
ing up, one risks tripping over stored boats, file cabinets, 
and stoves, or worse, falling into craters in the cement floor. 
The "Operations" bunker has two three-foot-thick walls di- 
vided by an airspace — shelter in case of nuclear blast. 

Despite the overall gloom, one can imagine the lives once 
lived here, in what was the Non-Commissioned Officers Club, 
the high-ranked played bingo and drank 25-cent beers at a 
still-standing bar. In this room and many others there is the 



cheery, albeit dated decor of wall-to-wall, patterned carpeting 
in vintage shades of brown, orange, and mustard. There is a 
two-lane bowling alley, a tennis court, a baseball diamond. 
The old commissary, converted into the North Atlantic Coastal 
Laboratory in 1997, is the first real sign of vitality to come. 
Here, Seashore employees assess pond samples and draw 
up topography maps of the Outer Cape. Come summer, Park 
Planner Lauren McKean says, visitors to the Center will lunch 
in a picnic grove while listening to volunteer storytellers. 

This spring, I spoke with Maria Burks, Superintendant of 
the Cape Cod National Seashore, about how far the 
Highlands Center has come, and how far it has to go. 

Jennifer Liese; When you signed on as Superintend- 
ant five years ago, did you have any idea you were 
about to embark on this enomious project? 

Maria Burks: The former Superintendant had 
toured me around. We talked about negotiations 
for off-road vehicles, the relocation of the light- 
houses, and what the dickens 
to do with the North Truro Air 
Force Station, which had come 
into the hands of the Park just 
three months before. Interest 
in reuse had been growing 
over the years, and the minute 
I saw it I said, Hey, it’s another 
Fort Mason Center — a fomier 
military base in California I 
had worked on converting. But 
you don't create a facility just 
because you have the build- 
ings. You look at your Park’s 
needs and decide whether 
there’s some particular use 
that will help further your 
mission. Once we put the 
concept out, did site visits, 
had a couple of open houses, 
the public comment came 
f)ack overwhelmingly — if you can make an envi- 
ronmental education and arts center out of this, 
by all means do it. 

JL: How will the Highlands Center fulfill the over- 
all objectives of the National Park Service? 



MB: Each Park is unique. The Seashore has a com- 
plicated mission with many less tangible aspects. 
We can pin down the oldest known structures, keep 
the archaeological sites sacred, but what about the 
distinctive pattern of human activity you’re protect- 
ing? What is the human response to this place — 
how people get here, why they come here, if they 
come here, why they stay? What kinds of folkways 
and food products are associated with Cape Cod? 
You think of clams, you think of steamers, you think 
of poking around in a boat in the salt marshes. You’re 
on the edge of the land, and it’s constandy unravel- 
ing. How do we feel about that? 

And then there’s the arts tradition — vibrant com- 
munities with a longstanding relationship to this 
land. What does this Park do about those things 
now? Not much — a few modest programs. Yet, 
that’s part of what made Cape Cod so special that 
in 1961, this land was set aside. You see a Hopper 
painting of a gas station, but the question is, what 
was Hopper doing with that little gas station vi- 
gnette? He was capturing a feeling, an ambience, a 
sense of place. So how do you nurture and protect 
and preserve that? Wlien we held focus groups, edu- 
cators, artists, and scientists spoke to this need. It is 
very much our hope tiiat the Highlands Center will 
be an expression of what matters most to Cape 
Codders about the Cape. This, I’ve become con- 
vinced, is what’s meant by “the way of life” described 
by the legislative end of the National Park Service. 
This project is not just about a chunk of land. 

JL: Most people, I think, perceive the National Park 
Service as a protector of the physical environment, 
rather than the more ambiguous qualities of life 
you’re talking about. It’s encouraging that the mis- 
sion is so roomy, and that you’re able to identify 
the arts as part of your overall mission so convinc- 
ingly. When you pitch this project on a national 
level, do people get it? 

MB: More than two-thirds of the units in the 
National Park system are historical or cultural. 
People often don’t know that. So this concept wasn’t 
foreign to the Park Service, and I have no trouble 
selling it. In fact tire Highlands Center has done very 
well intemaOy for acknowledgement, recognition, 
and endorsement. Just recently we received a grant 




Utopian Things Have Happened: A Short Subjective 
Survey of Spectacular Arts Organizations Nationwide 

With the Highlands Center still largely in the realm of fantasy, now is the time to dream big. 
The following profiles of four arts organizations are meant to beckon inspiration as the 
Seashore and the community imagine and cultivate the Center's future. — J.L. 

The Crucible, Berkeley, CA 

A non-profit “educational collaboration between arts, industry, and community,” the Cru- 
cible was founded in January 1999 by sculptor Michael Sturtz. Its 6,000 square-foot space 
will soon quadruple in size, as they take over a former framing shop and plastic factory 
next door. The Crucible boasts a vast curriculum in the industrial arts, including classes in 
foundry, welding, blacksmithing, glass casting, ceramics, silversmithing, and stone carv- 
ing. and serves everyone from Silicon Valley magnates looking for creative outlet to youths 
seeking vocational training. Central to the Crucible’s mission is changing the common 
perception that the arts are separate from everyday existence. The largely volunteer staff 
staves to bring creativity back to life and work by teaching applicable skills. 

This focus on applied arts has made the Crucible a natural for attracting corporate sup- 
port. Levi Strauss was an early benefactor, and a local company contributed a forklift so 
essential to the project it was given a name, “Mulligan.” The Crucible also encourages 



reuse of discarded industrial materials, gamering donations of metal, electronics, and ma- 
chinery parts from Bay Area businesses like Bayer Pharmaceuticals, Pacific Pipe, and Union 
Machine Works, which lent cable-car gears to the cause. Innovative fundraising is a forte 
here. A winter “Fire Feast” drew over 2,400 guests, who drank fiery cocktails, “dined with 
Dante” on fiery foods cooked on sculptural stoves, took in live fire performances, and bid 
on an auction of flame-wrought art. Monthly potluck lectures (sample topic: “Aesthetics 
of the Big”) and gallery shows are also hugely popular. SPARC (Student Programs and 
Resources at the Crucible) will host an ArtBike workshop this summer, teaching every- 
thing from decoration to repair by creating sculptural bicycles from recycled parts. 

Sturtz cites three dictionary definitions of the Cmcible’s namesake. A crucible is: “1. A 
vessel used for melting materials at high temperatures; 2. A severe test, as of patience or 
belief; and 3. A place or situation in which concentrated forces converge and interact to 
cause or influence change or development.” Sturtz has seen his share of each of these, 
especially the second, he says. “It's our rate of growth, and finding the funds to keep up 
with it — that's our biggest test.” 

The International Studio and Curatorial Program, New York, NY 

Founded in 1994, the ISCP is based in a seven-story brick building in Tribeca. Originally 
the first mail-order depot in the country, the building’s center courtyard once housed pack- 
age-delivery horses. Today, artists from all over the world hold up to one-year residencies 
in fifteen studios here and ten more at an annex on 39th Street. They are supported by 
government cultural organizations, foundations, and corporations, which contribute the 



to establish the Atlantic Learning Center, which 
will explore science and the landscape, the hand 
of humans on the land, and implications for the 
future. The Center will bring the community in 
with education and outreach. 

JL: So the Learning Center will act as the flagship, 
the jumpstart for the whole Highlands Center, and 
now that you’ve gone through the research and 
development phase, you’re ready to seek out part- 
ner programs. 

MB: Yes, Community Partners, our main 
consultant at this point, hired Barbara Baker for 
the initial phase of programmatic planning. We 
had to determine what local organizations believe 
to be an effective expression of their needs, desires, 
and concerns. That came out of the focus groups. 
We also expect regional and national participation. 
The main thing that’s happening this year is the 
identification and formation of a management 
partner to help us develop a wish-list of program 
partners. The Lower Cape Cod Community 
Development Corporation will be helping us find 
that entity. It has to work from a business and a 
legal point of view; it can’t be just entirely an 
artistic creation. There are real-world constraints, 
but we’re working hard to wiggle with those. 

JL: I know that some local organizations are in- 
terested in participating — the Center for Coastal 
Studies, the Fine Arts Work Center, WOMR — but 
what I’m hearing is that the expense of convert- 
ing the buildings is . . . 

MB: Very problematic. That’s why it’s so impor- 
tant that we work with the Congressional delega- 
tion. For example, with the Adantic Learning Center, 
we’U be asking the Park Service to request a line 
item appropriation for well over a million dollars 
to improve the infrastructure in 2002. We’re work- 
ing through Congressman Delahunt’s office to get 
federal funding. Also, the Army Corps of Engi- 
neers expressed interest in having a facility here 
and helping with the demolition of unneeded 
buildings. The Corps builds dams and re-routes 
rivers and puts up bridges, and as a result, they 
have a tremendous mass of archaeological re- 
sources that they want to show for public access. 
We’re also hoping that the management partner 



will seek private sector funding sources that the 
Park Service itself can’t apply for. We’re looking at 
creative approaches, but non-profit groups may 
have to rehab their own interior space. 

JL: So the management structure will make an 
umbrella fundraising effort for the overall physi- 
cal site, and local and national arts organizations, 
which are always strapped for cash, will get some 
assistance. 

MB: Yes. We’re envisioning, unless we get 
incredibly lucky and manna falls from the federal 
heavens, an ongoing capital fundraising effort by 
our management partner. We recognize that the 
basic infrastructure — water service, plumbing, 
roads, removing hazardous materials from 
buildings — we need to pony up for that. That might 
be two-thirds of the expense, but that still leaves a 
huge third in terms of site improvements — 
landscaping, interiors, aesthetic improvements, 
working up space for a potter, or getting the light 
right for a painter. Partners need to consider how 
they’re going to pay for those things. Most of these 
organizations have boards, and most are 
accustomed to raising funds. We know the money 
is there, the question is how to turn on the tap. 
JL: Do you have any interest in maintaining the 
authenticity of the military structures for history’s 
or curiosity’s sake? 

MB: Yes, but we certainly wouldn’t sacrifice the 
mission of the Highlands Center for that. Archi- 
tecturally it’s totally uninspired, but the placement 
of the buildings — bachelor officers’ quarters, larger 
homes for the higher officers, smaller lawns for 
the junior officers — reveal the sociology of the 




PHOTO STEPHAN SCHOLZ 



military during the Cold War era. You feel like 
you’re going to see Comer Pyle walk by. The com- 
mand post is the place that shrieks Cold War. It’s 
got its own water filtration system, its own air unit, 
its own telephone system. I’ve only made it a few 
feet in the doorway because it’s like a sarcopha- 
gus. I’ve got to go up there with boots and a 
headlamp someday. During public tours we heard 
some neat stories associated with that period and 
that set of buildings. For a long time, that 500- 
person base was really important to the town of 
Truro, and people would like to see that ac- 
knowledged and remembered. 

JL: Tell me what you learned from the focus groups 
you held with the arts community? 

MB: Artists said very clearly they wanted studio 
space, not just a teaching venue, but a place for 
people to work. We were told to provide common 
space — if people eat together then all sorts of won- 
derful things happen. They said, don’t try to set 
up formal structures, it won’t work. Allow it to 
happen and it will. There was also a lot of discus- 
sion about interdisciplinary exchange. 

JL: Are only non-profit organizations eligible, or 
can individual artists lease studios? 

MB: We don’t plan to prepare a bunch of studios 
and then rent them out to artists. Organizations that 
serve artists need to come forward. At the Fort Ma- 
son Center, they rent out to private groups at market 
rate, which is sky high, and use that revenue to sub- 
sidize the non-profit space. That won’t work here 
because we don’t have the turnover that a commu- 
nity like San Francisco has. Furthermore, some of 
the uses that you would assume we could readily 
make money from would compete with local busi- 
ness. We can’t do that. So we’re looking instead for 
profit organizations that can bring new business into 
the community in ways that are not incompatible 
with our mission. They would be our cash cows. 

JL: I ask about possibilities for individuals because 
in the focus groups, artists said that above all, they 
need studio space. Residency programs, such as 
the Fine Arts Work Center, are extraordinarily com- 
petitive; they bring in the very best of the best from 
all over the country. So most local artists are not 



$50,000 per year cost of a Manhattan studio, living space, and stipend. Dennis Elliott, 
Director, points to a map above his office door with pins marlcing participating artists’ 
origins. Europe is especially dense with pins. He pages through an album of photographs 
of artists from Poland, the Czech Republic, and Cyprus, and says that artists from Austra- 
lia, New Zealand, Taiwan, and Canada are on their way. 

Elliott likens his enterprise to a Canal Street mom-and-pop shop. It runs on a business- 
model and is not perceived, like many residencies, as a retreat. Locating funding and kindling 
publicity are primary concerns. Elliott spends most of his time fundraising, seelcing grants 
for general operating expenses (partially covered by the Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts), 
and negotiating support from abroad. He works overtime to introduce ISCP artists to “the 
best New York has to offer,” and chooses artists who are not only brilliant, but ambitious. 
He says he “can almost smell” those who really want to achieve. Artists have regular 
studio visits with leading critics and curators, and open studio nights, held twice per year, 
often lead to gallery shows. Elliott promotes his artists in more unorthodox ways, too — 
attempting to get their work in Barneys’ windows, for instance. During the Louima and 
Diallo trials, he urged the NYPD to show a resident artist’s paintings of officers with halos 
atop their heads. 

For ten years prior to founding the ISCP, Elliott oversaw residencies for American artists, 
but found the paucity of public arts funding in this country prohibitive. Foreign artists, he 
discovered, were more amply subsidized. When asked about differences between American 
and international artists, Elliott says he finds American artists slighdy more object-oriented. 
He notices, too, that artists from abroad have nationalistic arguments, and “being in a 



strange land, they bond.” Beyond that, Elliott says he rarely takes the time to “philosophize 
on artists crossing borders.” Rather, he contends with the real-world truth that art is a 
profession, requiring as much skill and savvy as any other. 

Redmoon Theater, Chicago, IL 

Redmoon has been producing “visionary spectacle theater” since 1990. Its mission is “to 
celebrate the human condition by creating original theater art grounded in the accessible, 
yet sophisticated, world of puppets, masks, and objects.” Their signature events are the 
annual “All Hallows’ Eve Ritual Celebration,” and “Winter Pageant” — parade/performances 
that invite the whole community to honor the spirits and seasons in a way our culture has 
mostly forgotten. The 1999 Halloween ritual featured a fire performance team, jugglers, 
and stilt-walkers wearing huge, bird-like heads who thrilled a crowd of 10,000. A Chicago 
Sun-Times critic described the evening as “incomparably magical,” and concluded, “Any- 
one in doubt about the power of art to galvanize a community and create a miraculous, 
peaceable Idngdom would have been transformed into a believer.” An innovative Aloby 
Dkk put Redmoon on the staged performance map, and award-winning productions of 
Frankenstein and The Ballad of Frankie and Johnny followed at Chicago’s prestigious 
Steppenwolf Theater, where Flnnchback, an adaptation of Hugo’s classic, opened to raves in 
May. Childrens’ programs include Dramagirls, which uses performance skills lilce stilt-wallc- 
ing, drumming, and storytelling to empower middle-school girls. 

Artistic Director Jim Lasko reflected recently on the appeal of puppets: “The puppet has 
many virtues. Besides being egoless, demanding no benefits or even pay, they are incredibly 



going to be able to utilize that space. But if you 
provide individual studio spaces, everyone will be 
eligible. 

MB; The management partner could choose to do 
that, or they could look for a partner willing to 
handle drat. 1 don’t think every individual would 
have to be incorporated. They may have to give 
back somehow. For example, the dune shacks in 
the Provincelands that are run by the Community 
Compact and die Consortium — they provide space 
to artists and have a payback requirement. Tliere 
have been poetry readings, exhibits, the idea being 
that the broader visiting public gets a tiny peek. In 
one program, twice a week, a small group of \dsi- 
tors goes out and talks to the artist-in-residence. 

JL: You have looked at the Golden Gate National 
Recreation Area as a model. Have you looked at 
non-government organizations? I'm thinking of 
Mass MOCA, which has magically revitalized an 
old mill town in Western Massachusetts. 

MB: We had a roundtable last fall — some big 
names from the arts world off-Cape — and they 
were blown away by the site and its potential and 
said we’ve got wonderful ingredients for a fabu- 
lous program. They also told us that we have to 
be clear on whether we were going to just rent 
space or create some sort of curated experience, 
whether partner programs would be expected to 
participate in a broader context. 

JL: A curated experience, that's a good tenn. I’m 
pictunng Mystic Seaport, where you come expect- 
ing about a half-dozen related experiences. You 
want to see a little historical re-enactment, some 
beautiful wooden boats, to learn how to tie some 
knots, to have some grog. The Highlands Center 
won't have that degree of synergy, but I’ve got a 
sense there will be some sort of collaboration be- 
tween organizations. 

MB: Tlte partner organization can decide that their 
organization wants to move in that direction or 
not. We need to provide the context, the harness, 
hut we don’t want to make the harness so small 
that only two horses fit. I’m deliberately not being 



too definitive because I want the management 
partner to own some of that decision. 

JL: Have you mapped out a hypothetical group of 
partners that would represent the scope you're 
looking for — a theater company, a children’s sci- 
ence center, a studio collective? 

MB: Yes, 1 think in a broad sense we could 
probably come up with a list of fifteen different 
functions that we would hope to have here. But in 
temis of specific organizations, or even specific 
activities, we re wide open. 

JL; Is there anything that individuals can do now 
to contribute or participate, or is tliat down the line? 
I know there’s enomious community interest. 

MB: I can think of a thousand things, but I’m afraid 
to unleash the floodgates. Technically, the site is 
closed to the public because it’s not safe. But we 
gave tours last year because we want people to 
get accustomed to moving in and out of that space. 
This summer we re also having story-telling, not 
just tours. People who know stories are welcome 
to share that with us. At the roundtable they said, 
get some life in there, have an Easter egg hunt. 
We’re so thinly equipped that I can’t start issuing 
pemtits right and left, but if someone has a really 
great idea, we might just take them up on it. It’s as 
helpful to the Congressional delegation as it is to us 
to know that there’s community support. I’m not 
allowed to tell people to lobby Congress, but I can 
simply say any expression of public support helps. 

JL: What about a:i old-fashioned ham-raising? With 
so many construction workers in the community 
and so many landscapers — they could get a tax 
write-off for in-kind services, or just volunteer, to 
contribute toward renovation. 

MB: That’s a great idea. We’re allowed, by law, to 
accept volunteer services. Still — and 1 hate to sound 
like a wet blanket — it would have to be cleared 
dtrough die union and workers would have to sign a 
volunteer agreement so diat in case of injury, diey’re 
covered under Workmen’s Comp. It gives us legal 
cover in die event that someone decides to sue. I’ve 
never had a volunteer disabled, but just in case. 



JL: In other words, there’d be some red tape. 

MB: Yes, but it would be possible. It's complicated 
right now by the fact that there are still some haz- 
ardous materials out there — asbestos, lead paint — 
which we’re required by law to remove a certain 
way. Once those are gone, we would be able to 
do that sort of thing. We’re also looking for people 
to serve on the board of the non-profit manage- 
ment partner. This will be a working board, a get- 
your-hands-dirty job, not an honorary activity. 

JL: What do you picture five, ten, fifteen years 
down the line? Learning centers, studios, perfor- 
mance spaces — 1 can’t help but have a totally uto- 
pian vision — a dozen or so organizations, each of 
them working in their own creative realm, but with 
foot traffic between them that would inspire mind 
traffic. And all on a bluff at the edge of the sea. 

MB; I 've envisioned it a thousand times, and every 
time I do, it’s a little different. We have committed 
to Truro that there won’t be anything that would 
invite a volume that unduly intrudes on the town. 
I do think there’s room for performance spaces, 
expecially in the off-season. Certain types of arts 
don't exist unless there’s an audience, but this is 
not a venue for the general, casual visitor. 1 
wouldn’t envision a tour bus stopping here. 
Without question, there will be access for the local 
community. There’s no reason why every kid who 
goes to a school on the Outer Cape can’t have some 
kind of programming opportunity at the Highlands 
Center — let's give them something different from 
the skateboard park or the beach in the summer. 1 
envision intergenerational programs — maybe 
senior artists working with children who are 
struggling with math, and somehow through the 
fomt and structure of art, the child learns. I see mixing 
and mingling so that all kinds of work is nurtured 
by otlier disciplines in a very concentrated setting 
and venue. Tliese are really utopian kinds of things, 
but they can happen. Why can’t they happen here? 
If what we offer works for people, then they will 
come and help build. I know that to be true. 

Jaiiiifer Liese is Editor of Provincetown Arts. 



flexible and never lie. But what is most exciting about the ptippet is that it adores 

collaboration and promotes community Like having a common friend at a table with 

strangers, the puppet promotes healthy conversation, demonstrates our differences, and 
highlights our similarities. ... It is acrobatic, expressive, and unflappable. With the right 
urging, it can do almost anvthing. But the puppet's appeal goes beyond that to something 
more esotenc. less conscious, and perhaps, deeper and more meaningful. A puppet on 
stage relieves us of the obligations to the 'realism' that dominates film, television, and 
most theater. Puppets don't ask us to 'willingly suspend our disbelief, ' as Diderot understood 
the audience's responsibilities to realism. They ask that we actively manufacture belief. 
I'he puppet relies on the audience's assistance. Its face never changes or exhibits feeling. It 
doesn't glance or transfomi. Nothing happens without the audience willing it to be so. 
.^nd this, it seems to me. is the gift of the puppet: the gentle reminder that belief is an 
exercise, a willful act of consciousness that we can employ to transfomi our reality.” 

Tlie Revolving Museum, Boston, MA 

The Revolving Museum, which develops public art projects involving artists, youth, and 
communities, was founded in 1984 by artist Jerry Beck. For years it was a nomadic en- 
deavor-transforming abandoned sites, railway cars for instance, into temporary installa- 
tions and perfomiancc spaces. In 1998, the museum settled in a 30,000 square-foot former 
wallpaper mill in Fort Point Channel, a factory zone inhabited by hundreds of artists since 
the early '80s. It houses two exhibition spaces, fifty low-cost artists’ studios, and a fine arts 

PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 



pnnt workshop, and hosts the annual Boston LInderground Film Festival, but most dis- 
tinctive are its collaborative youth projects. 

‘'House of Pnnts" is an ongoing project originated by program director Bo Lembo, who 
works with multi-ethnic students using pnntmaking as a device to consider and compare 
diverse understandings of home and family. Lembo brings in guest artists to teach the 
printmalcing techniques of their homelands, such as East Africa and japan. Lembo also got 
the “I Scream Art Tmck” on the road. The converted ice cream van travels to street cor- 
ners. parks, and festivals offering programs led by artists like Ife Franklin, whose work- 
shops explored homophobia in the African-American community. “Wonders of the World” 
is a biennial large-scale interactive carnival created by youth and community groups. '‘To- 
gether We Believe in LJs” was a writing and art project conducted between students from 
a Jewish and a Catholic school. All of these projects are highly participatory: “TTie idea 
that art can be made hy people as well as for people is central to the Revolving Museum's 
mission.” 

The museum has always been funded largely through government granting agencies, 
such as the NEA and the Massachusetts Cultural Council. This spring, funding was sur- 
prisingly scarce, and Beck was forced to cancel much of this year’s programming. Add to 
this an impending move, and the museum is about to revolve again. Fort Point is smack in 
the middle of the Big Dig, and when the most expensive public works project ever under- 
taken is over, the area is slated to become a high-priced commercial zone. The museum's 
lease runs out in a year, so it, and many local artists, are preparing for displacement. Lembo 
says the shock has worn off, and sounds positive about looking at sites in Lowell. If all else 
fails, he says, they might just go back to their vagabond roots. “We can do it in our apart- 
ments if we have to.” 



Ghost Music in the Dunes 



ROBERT FINCH 



T nese are the wine days, the high autumn 
days on the Cape, and there is no better 
place to spend them than in the dunes. 
Thanks to the generosity of our friends, 
Gary and Laurie, Kathy and 1 are spend- 
ing a few days at Peg’s, one of eighteen remaining 
dune shacks spread thinly across the broad, sandy 
expanse of the Provincelands from Race Point to 
High Head. 

The Provincelands encompass several square 
miles of dune ridges and valleys that sprawl be- 
tween the town of Provincetown and the Atlantic 
Ocean at the very tip of Cape Cod. The dune 
shacks lie along the outermost ridge of dunes, and 
many of them date back to the early years of the 
20th century. The first ones were said to have been 
built by crew members of the Life Saving Service 
stations that used to line the outer beach here, en- 
abling the men to bring their families along in the 
summer months. Others were built later by local 
and summer people, many of them writers and art- 
ists who used the shacks as retreats. Today several 
are still known by the names of their former own- 
ers: Boris’, Zara’s, Frenchie’s, Sunny’s, and Peg’s. 

Peg’s is named after its former owner, Peg 
Watson, who was a social worker in New York 
City. About a mile east of Peg’s was the shack of 
Charlie Schmid, the legendary “Bird Man” of the 
dunes who lived there yearround for twenty-three 
years. Charlie and Peg were said to have been close 
friends, lovers actually. Over the years Peg spent 
as much time as she could at her shack until her 
arthritis became too bad and she went to Boston 
for knee surgery. 

After the operation Peg returned to the dunes 
to see Charlie, though friends said she really wasn’t 
fit to come. The story is that, on the day of her 
death, she drove over the sand road in her jeep to 
Charlie’s. When she left in the evening, Charlie 
watched her go until she disappeared in a dip, and 
then he went inside. What happened next is con- 
jecture, but apparently, the jeep either stalled or 
got stuck in the sand, and Peg, using her walker, 
tried to get to the nearest shack, Zara’s, for help. 
There were two women staying at Zara’s and one 
of them had a dream that night in which she 
seemed to hear someone crying for help. The next 
day they found Peg’s body in one of the wild cran- 
berry bogs, a place still marked with a cairn of 
stones gathered from the beach. 

Charlie inherited Peg’s shack. After his death 
in the early 1980s, it was acquired by the Cape 
Cod National Seashore and gradually fell into dis- 
repair. By the time Gary and Laurie leased it from 
the Seashore, the porch was gone, the floor boards 
were rotted out, and the roof was about to fall in. 
Today Peg’s has been restored to its original sound- 
ness with loving care and attention to detail. 

In the mornings we wake to unexpectedly inland 
sounds; the calls of towhees and bluejays poking and 
flitting among the thick scrub oak and beachplum 



shrubs that surround the shack. A song sparrow 
peeks up out of the brush to the top of a bayberry 
twig to see what is going on, chipping loudly. 
Hundreds of tree swallows buzz low over the 
shack, all heading west toward Race Point, 
skimming within a few feet of my head, as if they 
were flying bombing patterns. Dragonflies — hero 
darners the size of small helicopters — chop through 
the soft air, thick with memory. 

To the south heavy rains have flooded the cran- 
berry bogs across the jeep trail, turning them all to 
small, deep-blue lakes. Beyond them, along the 
crest of the high dunes, the sky-blue water tower 
and the top of Provincetown 's Pilgrim Monument 
loom like the Dakota Towers and the Plaza Hotel 
over Central Park, but in reverse scale and rela- 
tionship. Here it is the park, that is, the Cape Cod 
National Seashore, which surrounds and domi- 
nates Provincetown’s miniature metropolis. 

We are lazy and grateful, basking in the clear, 
lucent light under arching, autumn skies. All day 
the old yellow sightseeing plane drones overhead 
along the dune ridges. A friend, visiting us, remarks 
that the same plane has been flying across the same 
route every summer since he was a boy here forty 
years ago, “and probably long before that. I bet it’s 
been flying since the 1930s, maybe the 1920s. It’s 
that vintage. Heck, it’s been flying so long it’s worn 
a groove in the air. They don’t even have to steer 
it anymore, just give it a kick to get it going.” 

By late afternoon deep shadows begin to curl 
into the north-facing hollows of the dunes. We see 
deer tracks, and large pairs of paw prints that might 
be from coyotes. In one place the seed stem of a 
beachgrass plant has been carried along the smooth 
side of a dune, making a jagged lightning-bolt track 
in its flank. 

Kathy says that the air surrounding these shacks 
is “old,” by which, I take it, she means that it is full 
of memory. Peg’s, like many of the shacks, has a 
log in which visitors are encouraged to write. In 
addition to the numerous expressions of gratitude 
for the gifts of solitude and beauty, there is a wealth 
of small, careful observations of weather, wildlife, 
and the shack itself that gradually forms a collec- 
tive memory of this place. On one wall is a sketch 
by Bill Evaul, the Truro artist, of the view out the 
shack’s eastern window. In it he has carefully in- 
dicated, against the silhouette of the dunes, the 
former and present positions of the tower of High- 
land Light, several miles to the southeast, that was 
moved back from the edge of the sea cliffs this 
past summer. An event that was publicly reported 
and celebrated is here recorded as a small but sig- 
nificant milestone in the history of this shack: a 
fixture in the landscape, already old at the shack’s 
birth, has shifted slightly, but momentously. 

Shortly before sunset, I come in off the porch 
into the shack and am immediately aware of faint 
music. Kathy has fallen asleep on the bed, and I 
think perhaps she has left the portable radio on. 



but no, it is turned off. There is, nonetheless, 
unmistakable music in the air, just above the 
auditory threshold. It sounds vaguely Middle 
Eastern: a low flute, or wordless voice, with soft 
percussion. Perhaps someone in one of the shacks 
to the west is playing music that is drifting down 
on the wind. I go outside again, but hear nothing 
except crickets and surf. 

Doubting my ears, I wake Kathy, and she con- 
firms what I hear: low serpentine melodies with a 
steady, muffled beat underneath. We begin to 
search the shack from one end to the other, trying 
to discover its source, lying down on the floor, then 
standing up on the bed; but it seems to grow no 
louder or softer no matter where we listen from. 
Ghost music, it seems — like the crying of babies 
said to be heard at the sites of certain massacres of 
Indian villages in the west. 

Then the music stops. The indistinguishable 
words of a woman’s voice follow. I turn on the 
portable radio, twist the dial, and eventually find 
WOMR, Provincetown’s community radio station. 
Yes, it is their broadcast, but that only displaces 
the mystery: where is it coming from? We are very 
close to its transmitter here in the dunes, so close 
that the station comes in on eight different fre- 
quencies across the dial. Could it be that the whole 
shack — its metal screens and spoons, its iron pump 
and aluminum pots, its steel refrigerator and 
stove — are all acting like some kind of enormous 
antennae, the way that metal fillings in a mouth 
are sometimes said to do? It’s a far-fetched idea, 
but there seems no other explanation. 

Gradually we become more and more obsessed 
with finding the source, realizing we will not sleep 
unless we do. We open up drawers, haul out boxes 
and duffel bags from under the bed, scour the 
shelves, dig through piles of blankets and clothes. 
Eventually, we unearth an answer. At the bottom 
of one of the storage boxes Kathy finds an all-band 
portable radio. The radio is, in fact, tuned to 
WOMR and, apparently, was accidentally left pro- 
grammed to turn on at this time by the previous 
occupants. 

There is relief, of course, in solving the mystery, 
but as with all mysteries revealed, a certain 
disappointment as well. Even as we sink into surf- 
smothered sleep, I continue to hear a low, 
disembodied, plaintive voice, singing somewhere out 
among the dark dunes and memory-flooded bogs. 

Rohen Finch lives in Wcllflcet and is the author of 
font collections of essays including Cape Cod: Its 
Natural and Cultural History. In 1999 he received 
a Literary Lights Award from the Boston Public Lihraiy. 

This essay is from the booh, Death of a Hornet and 
other Cape Cod Essays, fonhcoming from Connter- 
l^oint Press. Refminted by f^ermission. 

PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 I PAGE 69 




cmt 



i:K’cnx.,y^uOulfM 



io/ieau 



VINCENT J. CLEARY 



HENRY DAVID THOREAU was an inveterate 
walker. In this he joined many 19th-century men 
before him; John James Audubon, for example, 
walked as many as forty miles a day in his investi- 
gation of the natural world. That men of this pe- 
riod did so much walking is only partially explained 
by the fact that the internal combustion engine 
was yet to be invented. More to the point, Thoreau, 
along with Ralph Waldo Emerson, Margaret Fuller, 
Amos Bronson Alcott, and Elizabeth Peabody, was 
a New England Transcendentalist, serious in the 
search for a liberating philosophy. Romantic ide- 
alists, they had a burning spiritual desire to be at 
one with the world and its metaphysical imma- 
nence. Since God was present in nature, what bet- 
ter way to commune with God than by walking 
in the great outdoors. Thoreau did so regularly. 
His two years spent in the woods near Walden 
Pond, his many writings on nature, on Maine and 
the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, serve as wit- 
ness to his desire to be in untamed nature when- 
ever he could, away from cities and confinement. 

In 1837, age twenty, a Harvard graduate witli a 
strong grounding in Greek, Latin, and the Classics, 
Thoreau began deriving an income mainly from 
writing and lecturing, often about his travels. (To 
supplement his living, he also did surveying, made 
pencils, helped to edit The Dial, taught school and 
served at times as a handyman/caretaker for the 
Emersons.) One of his essays, called "Walking," is 
a chamaing piece that deserves to be better known. 
Were Thoreau alive today, some shoe company 
would no doubt want to associate his name with 
its footwear products, a notion that this private, 
reserc'ed man would probably find incomprehen- 
sible at best, reprehensible at worst. 

Here is how “Walking" begins: "1 wish to speak 
a word for absolute freedom and wildness as con- 
trasted with freedom and culture merely civil — to 
regard man as an inhabitant, or a part and parcel 
of Nature, rather than a member of society. I wish 
to make an extreme statement, if so I may make 
an emphatic one. for there are enough champions 
of civilization: the minister and the school com- 
mittee will take care of that." Thoreau’s sense of 
humor is an unanticipated pleasure in his writings. 
And how much time spent walking is enough for 
Thoreau? His answer may surprise us, for few to- 
day would be able to spend so much of the day in 
this pursuit: “1 think that I cannot preserve my 
health and spirits unless I spend four hours a day 
at least — and it is commonly more than that — 
sauntering through the woods and over the hills 
and fields, absolutely free from all worldly engage- 
ments." How far could one walk in mid- 19th-cen- 
tury Concord and still be in nature? “I can easily 
walk ten. fifteen, twenty, any number of miles, 
commencing at my door, without going by any 
house, without crossing a road except where the 

PAGE 70 I PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 



fox and the mink do: first along by the river, and 
then the brook, and then the meadow and the 
woodside. There are square miles in my vicinity 
which have no inhabitant. From many a hill 1 can 
see civilization and the abodes of man afar.” (He is 
probably referring here to Boston, twenty miles 
distant by his estimation.) What was the preferred 
direction of his walks? “When I go out of the house 
for a walk, uncertain as to whither I will bend my 
steps, and submit myself to my instinct to decide 
for me, I find, strange and whimsical as it may 
seem, that I finally and inevitably setde southwest, 
toward some particular wood or meadow or de- 
serted pasture or hill in that direction.” 

“Walking” was published in 1 86 1 , a year before 
Thoreau’s deatli from tuberculosis in the following 
spring, at the age of forty-four. Earlier, in October, 
1849, in June, 1850, and last in July, 1855, Thoreau 
completed three week-long walks on Cape Cod’s 
Outer banks, what he refers to as “its bare and 
bended ami.” On the first and last of these walks, 
he was accompanied by his friend and fellow 
Transcendentalist, William Ellery Channing, 
though he doesn't identify Channing by name in 
the book based on these walks, Ca]>e Cod, 
published posthumously in 1865. 

Starting at what is now Coast Guard Beach, 
near Nauset Light, the two men walked north to- 
ward Race Point in Provincetown, some twenty- 
eight miles distant by Thoreau’s reckoning. In all, 
Tlioreau walked the Outer Cape twice, the bayside 
once. On this first walk, he and Channing stayed 
in a lighdiouse, a fishing shack, and also took lodg- 
ing in Provincetown. Tliree days were spent on each 
walk, so the two walked on average eight to ten 
miles a day. Walking in sand, then or now, is not 
easy. Thoreau blends all three journeys into one 
account, describing one, rather than three, walks. 

Keeping to his philosophy of walking in nature, 
Thoreau avoids towns, with the exception of 
Provincetown in the last chapter. Chapter 10, and 
for the most part avoids people, the exception here 
being an amusing account of the Wellfleet 
Oysterman in Chapter 5. There is much irony, 
bemusement, joy even in Caj’c Cod, another 
surprise. What Thoreau captures in Caj’c Cod, 
better than any writer on the Outer Cape that I 
know, including the close second — Henry Beston’s 
The Outermost House, is the exact feel imparted by 
the shoreline and dune, their beauty, barrenness, 
their sense of solitude. Thoreau is pleased with 
his early efforts. Having just encountered the Outer 
Cape beach for the first time, astride a dune, the 
shore line before him, he observes: “There I had 
got the Cape under me, as much as if I were riding 
it barebacked, not as on the map, or seen from the 
stagecoach; but there I found it out of doors, huge 
and real, Cape Cod! as it cannot be colored on a 
map, color it as you will.” 

For Thoreau, dune and shoreline contain the 
real Cape. Does he get it just right, and is his 



description of this stretch of beach in 1849 accurate 
today? Detemiining to answer this question, two 
summers ago I retraced Thoreau’s steps up the 
Outer Cape. Others have taken this same journey, 
and two books I recommend are W'alhiug the Shores 
of Caf>e Cod by Elliott G. Carr, published in 1997, 
and Traces of Thoreau by David Mulloney, from 
1998. Both are well written, interesting books, 
though tlrese writers pursued different tasks than 
the one 1 set for myself. Carr walked the entire 
perimeter of Cape Cod, some 250 miles in all, 
swimming thirty-one inlets and estuaries as he 
went. His book takes an essentially ecological tack. 
Mulloney repeats Thoreau’s entire journey and 
updates the tale to the present day. He is as 
interested in the journey to and from the Cape, 
the people and places he encounters, as in the 
actual beach walk itself. He writes about modem 
Cape oystermen and tire present status of the Cape 
in general. My focus, by contrast, would be on the 
dunes and beach and how little or much they have 
changed since Thoreau’s time. 

My conclusion? Tlianks in large part to the 1961 
Congress, when Massachusetts’ native son, Tho- 
mas “Tip” O’Neill was Speaker of the House and 
Brookline-bom John Fitzgerald Kennedy occupied 
the Presidency, both the Cape’s Outer beach, and 
North Carolina’s Outer Banks became National Sea- 
shores, owned by all the people and not a moneyed 
few. That 1961 Act brought two unrivalled eastern 
shorelines under the aegis of the Department of the 
Interior, to remain public beaches in perpetuity, for 
our grandchildren and our great-grandchildren to 
enjoy. What a marvelous legacy to bequeath to fu- 
ture generations! Much is owed to the Congress and 
the President who signed the Cape Cod National 
Seashore Act into being. This is a remarkable piece 
of legislation. As a result, the Outer Cape shoreline 
is Etde changed h'om Thoreau’s time. 

Compare the National Seashore lands with what 
is happening on the rest of the overcrowded Cape: 
the overbuilding; the “trophy” homes, many only 
seasonally occupied; the frequent bottlenecks on 
the Bourne and Sagamore Bridges; the 
“privatization” of many town beaches; the frequent 
revetments built into the ocean and bay; the 
bumper-to-bumper traffic heading into 
Provincetown on rainy days when the beaches are 
less attractive; the mid-week traffic jams in Hyannis 
and Chatham; the two-thirds of the Cape’s beaches 
that are privately owned. In Massachusetts, unlike 
many other states, the homeowner possesses 
down to the low-, not the high-water mark, 
making passage, even for a casual beachwalker like 
myself, above the low-water mark, illegal 
trespassing. The homeowner can ask the walker, 
as happened to me and my family once in 
Harwichport, to vacate “his" property. 

Lastly, 1 would cite the houses built too close 
to the water on the ocean side, and nature’s re- 
lentless power to reclaim the shoreline for herself. 



as happened to a number of homes in Chatham 
during a 1987 storm. On the positive side, the No- 
vember 1998 vote that limits growth and attempts 
to protect the fragile water table on the Cape, a 
vote which passed after earlier defeats, is a step in 
the right direction. Because the shoreline protected 
by this act is so extensive, it is always possible to 
find, even on the most crowded weekends, a Na- 
tional Seashore beach, like Race Point, that is not 
overcrowded. It is, of course, stretching things to 
say that Thoreau’s Caf’e Cod was a factor in the 
passage of these protections, though he would cer- 
tainly have approved it. In “Walking” he presciendy 
warns of the “No Trespassing” signs that may ap- 
pear around Concord and what this will mean for 
walkers like himself. His description rings true for 
the present Cape as well: 

At present, in this vicinity, the best part of the land is not 
private property; the landscape is not owned, and the walker 
enjoys comparative freedom. But possibly the day will come 
when it will be partitioned off into so-called pleasure 
grounds, in which a few will take a narrow and exclusive 
pleasure only — when fences shall be multiplied, and man- 
traps and other engines invented to confine man to the fmblic 
road, and walking over the face of God’s earth shall be 
construed to mean trespassing on some gentleman's 
grounds. To enjoy a thing exclusively is commonly to 
exclude yourself from the true enjoyment of it. Let us 
improve our opportunities, then, before the evil days come. 

The second-to-last sentence here might serve 
as the motto for the Cape Cod National Seashore. 
A similar public spiritedness informs the National 
Seashore Act of 1961. 

• 

Now to my walk up the Cape, and a brief de- 
scription of each day’s journey, drawing compari- 
sons with Thoreau’s experiences as 1 go. 

Day 1, Coast Guard Beach to Cahoon HoUow 
Beach, 7.3 miles. An omen, a good one, I think, 
as 1 start my walk. It is 7:30 a.m. A fisherman has 
landed a striped bass, at least thirty-six inches long, 
the minimum length for keeping, and it lies sleek 
and glistening in the morning sun. Once almost 
extinct, the fish has made a dramatic comeback, 
like the osprey population, another Cape success 
story. Can the once-strong George's Bank fisher- 
ies, mentioned by Thoreau, be returned to their 
former prominence? The striped bass resurgence 
suggests that, in time, they can. 

High tide today is at 8:30. 1 try to walk, barefoot, 
as close to the retreating waves on the strand as 1 
can, hoping for harder sand and somewhat easier 
walking. I can make about a mile every half hour, 
matching Thoreau’s pace. But speed is not the 
important thing today; enjoyment and observation 



are. Thoreau makes only passing references to the 
difficulties of walking in soft sand. Why? I wonder. 
The sand is never fimi enough and walking this 
shore will prove difficult all the way to Race Point. 

Sand dunes, about seventy feet high, are my 
constant companion to the left. 1 observe bank 
swallows, close to the top of the dunes, who fly 
straight into their nests to feed their young. 
(Thoreau counts 200 bank swallows in Truro.) 
There are not great numbers of birds on the beach: 
cormorants, which have become a nuisance in 
Orleans; the occasional tern; scoters, black sea-div- 
ing ducks; semipalmated plovers, but not great 
flocks of any one type. Perhaps there is more food 
on the bayside today. The piping plover, which is 
protected, I have yet to see here, but 1 have read 
that this bird too is making a modest comeback. 

Opposite Wellfleet, near Marconi Station, about 
a quarter mile offshore, the 1717 wreck of the Why- 
dah has been discovered by salvage hunters a few 
days before. Thoreau comments on his walk on 
the wreck of the Fnittkliit and the “wreckers” whose 
living depends on scavenging things from the sea, 
including shipwrecks, some lured to their ruin by 
lanterns swung to and fro on the beach. Firewood 
on this part of the Cape is valued, trees being in 
short supply. The later term for wreckers, one 
Thoreau does not use in Cape Cod, is “mooncussers.” 

As 1 climb the steep dune at Cahoon Hollow to 
reclaim my bike parked at the Beachcomber, 1 am 
met by three ladies from Rhode Island as they de- 
scend the dune. One of them says, to no one in 
particular, “We’ve got nothing like this in Rhode 
Island,” to which, amused, 1 can only add a whis- 
pered “Amen.” The Beachcomber is one of those 
loud, live music bars set close to the beach and 
though it is midday, it is already doing a brisk busi- 
ness. Thoreau has some strong words to say about 
bars. In Chapter 3, “The Plains of Nauset,” he com- 
ments: “1 was glad to have got out of the towns, 
where 1 am wont to feel unspeakably mean and 
disgraced, — to have left behind me fora season the 
barrooms of Massachusetts, where the full-grown 
are not weaned from savage and filthy habits.” 

Day 2 , Cahoon Hollow to Longnook Beach, 
6 miles. Many sanderlings, smallish wading birds, 
skitter up and down the beach, first before, then 
after me as 1 walk. I come upon a dead skate on 
the beach. It has been picked clean by the gulls 
and the ocean, a skeleton only. 1 have never seen 
one this close up. The water temperature is in the 
low sixties, and a few people are swimming. Just a 
few days before, close to where 1 am walking, be- 
yond the dune in an area not visible to me, a mur- 
der and apparent suicide have taken place. The 
woman, it seemed, was killed first, then the man 



took his own life. Her body was found in the trunk 
of a large-model Lincoln left on Pamet Road, and 
his was just nearby. The Pamet River once breached 
the beach here, but the dune has reestablished it- 
self and 1 do not visit the murder site. 1 think of 
the skate skeleton 1 just left on the beach. Nature 
cleans up after herself, at least. Thoreau would 
have commented on these two deaths, just as he 
notes in Cape Cod the report of a bank robbery in 
Provincetown and how he and his walking com- 
panion were later suspects in the crime, if only 
momentarily. 

It is a very hot day and the sun’s rays reflected 
off the water make it even hotter. Between 
Longnook and Ballston Beaches, well off to my 
left, back by the dunes, above eye level as 1 am 
walking on the shoreline and the tide is out, I see 
a sunbather raise his head and note my passing. 
The beach here is otherwise deserted. Later, after 
I have passed the spot, which 1 had read earlier 
was a nude beach, two middle-aged souls, both 
naked, make their way down to the ocean for a 
swim. They had not violated my privacy and 1 had 
respected theirs, but it was amusing to see, at a 
distance, their darker upper and lower bodies and 
their whiter midsections. It reminded me of zebra 
striping, human variety. Would Thoreau have been 
amused? Would he have approved this return to a 
more natural state? Yes on both counts. 

A constant in my walks along the ocean’s edge 
is the sound of the sea. Thoreau comments on this 
too, “the music of the ocean.” Today the sea is 
mild, waves only a foot or so high. Still, for their 
size, they are quite loud at times as they break in 
unison on the shore, a noisy yet reassuring back- 
ground sound as I make my way up the beach. 
Viewing the sea is the main purpose of Thoreau’s 
walk, as he says in the opening paragraph of Cape 
Cod: “Wishing to get a better view than I had yet 
had of the ocean ... I made a visit to Cape Cod in 
October, 1849.” As the book proceeds, it is the sea 
and not the land which more attracts him. He quotes 
Homer’s descriptions of the sea, twelve references 
in all, most in the original Greek and without trans- 
lation, probably chosen for their onomatopoeic ef- 
fect: “potamoio mega sthenos ’Oceanro” (“the great 
strength of the Ocean stream”). 

He is fascinated by the sound of the sea, as am I. 
It has become my companion and when I return 
home, 1 will listen over and over to its sound, cap- 
tured on the tapes I have made while walking up 
the beach on the ocean’s edge. They will help to 
soften the winter’s harshness. 

Six miles today, 13.3 miles completed thus far, 
almost half finished my walk. I am beginning to 
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sunburned, but not too badly. For the first time, 1 
am confident I will complete the walk. 

Day 3, Longnook Beach to Head of the 
Meadow Beach, 2.8 miles. I complete this short, 
uneventful walk as the rains begin, then walk to 
Dutra’s in North Truro to get lunch and catch the 
bus to Eastham. 1 wait out the rain, coming down 
quite hard now, in the North Truro Library, 
attracting some stares as 1 enter, soaking wet, 
squish, squish, squish. On a rainy day on the 
Cape, everyone within twenty-five miles of 
Provincetown heads there and traffic on Route 6 
north-bound is bumper-to-bumper. The bus does 
not appear and it is only later that 1 understand 
why, this traffic jam. Thinking I’ve missed the 
bus, 1 stick out my thumb, depending on the 
kindness of strangers. 

My first ride, a congenial lady making her 
weekly run to the town landfill in her Volvo sta- 
tion wagon, takes me well past her destination, 
out of kindness. Two male college students from 
Virginia, campers, next pick me up. They seem a 
bit skeptical of my story but they take me to a traf- 
fic light where 1 will have a better chance for a lift. 
Third ride — luck of the Irish! — is from a lifeguard at 
Head of the Meadow who knows some of the 
coaches where I teach and who, shades of the gen- 
erosity Thoreau encountered on the Cape, offers 
me the rent-free off-season use of his owner-built 
home in Truro, which he rents in the summer 
months. I’ll call him “Charles.” Bearded, darkly 
tanned, he takes me almost to my doorstep though 
this was much out of his way. Thoreau would have 
enjoyed him, 1 think, a storyteller, raconteur, a 
modern-day Wellfleet oysterman. Kindness is al- 
ways welcome, especially from strangers. 

Day 4, Head of the Meadow Beach to High 
Head, 2 miles. We, my wife and I, have had com- 
pany over the weekend, so for several days I have 
not been walking. Now more than halfway to 
Provincetown, the sand, as Thoreau had predicted, 
is coarser and darker. The dunes begin to flatten 
out too. Many black-backed gulls today, great 
flocks of them. And a sanderling with only one 
working leg. He has a second, which he uses like a 
crutch. He hops along, and once airborne, has no 
trouble. Laughing gulls are more numerous too. 
The tides being later, perhaps the pickings are bet- 
ter. I count the number of steps these large birds 
take to become airborne and it is eight, on aver- 
age. I wonder if these laughing gulls find me amus- 
ing. They seem to. The ocean is quite cold on this 
dreary, overcast day. No one is in the water. 
Thoreau no doubt used days like these to fill out 
his account with historical lore, the history of the 
various ministers at Eastham, for example, in Chap- 
ter 3. Was Thoreau, like his contemporary Dickens, 
paid by the word? This may explain the attention 
he gives to flora and fauna, complete with their 
Latin names. 

Perhaps this sort of digression is what his edi- 
tor at Putnani's Monthly Magazine objected to, and 
why, after the first episodes were published, 
Thoreau withdrew Ca/’e Cod from publication. 
While not pretending that Caj^e Cod is a literary 
masterpiece, I would argue that such descriptions 



add local color and help to create the feel of the Cape 
that, in my view, makes the book worth reading. 

Day 5 , High Head to Race Point, 6 miles. 
Blue sky, water temperature a frigid fifty-nine de- 
grees, too cold for swimming, as I learned later in 
the day. Many protected tern nesting grounds to 
my left, sand dunes now almost level with the 
beach. The first off-road vehicles appear. As this is 
a rather deserted part of the beach, 1 am grateful 
for their company. I try to walk in their tracks, 
hoping for easier going. No luck. 

It still intrigues me that Henry David comments 
so little on the walking, or such mundane details 
as what he carried with him. I have in my knap- 
sack the following: lunch, binoculars, several maps, 
a towel, and a book on Cape birds. What did he 
carry? I wonder, and except for the large clam he 
ate, which he describes, what else did he eat on 
the beach? I see my first starfish, about six inches 
long, on the walk, and after examination, return 
him, or her, to the sea. Parabolic sand dunes on 
my left remind me of the opening scene in Lawrence 
of Arabia. Great tangles of brown seaweed line the 
shore and cling to my ankles, washed up after the 
storm yesterday. 

There is almost no one on this stretch of beach, 
but I do observe in the distance a woman con- 
structing what looks like an altar. A little later, 
three women, sitting yoga-style on the beach, 
seem absorbed in a meditation exercise. They face 
the ocean silently and are, I suspect, serene. En- 
countering me on this hard-to-get-to-beach was 
probably a surprise. 

Thoreau notes how misleading it is to look at 
objects on the beach from a distance. They seem 
larger than they actually are. Distances appear mis- 
leading too, no doubt due to the way light reflects 
off the water and the sand. More vehicles as I ap- 
proach Race Point. Twelve are clustered shoreside. 
The occupants all seem to know one another. A 
family reunion? I pick up another little skate to 
examine it, only to receive a painful prick in my 
finger that will take about a week to heal. I reach 
Race Point. There are many sunbathers, very few 
bathers. Hot, tired, sweaty, I plunge in anyway. 
It's colder than I thought, much colder. Fortunately 
at a number of beaches on the Outer Cape, the 
Park Service has installed showers, johns, and 
changing rooms. The showers are cold too, but 
less so than the ocean water. Refreshed, 1 silently 
thank the Park Service for these amenities. One 
more stretch to go. 

Day 6, Race Point to Herring Cove Beach, 3 
miles. The final day of my walk, and what a 
revelation! These last three miles do not follow 
the beach but instead head inland, following the 
bike trail which will take me to Herring Cove 
Beach, where I’ve parked the car. Unlike the flat 
beaches earlier, there is much up and down walking 
here. I traverse first the Race Point trail, then the 
Province Lands trail, to my destination. 

The dunes here, great undulating hills and val- 
leys, remind me of a moonscape. Lots of craters 
and drifts, and now for the first time, large popu- 
lations of beach grass, rose hips, shrub pines, and 
oaks. These trees, many of them, are little more 
than eye-level high but very wide at the base, as 



Thoreau describes the apple trees there — low and 
hugging the ground. Walking on a path is not at all 
like walking on the beach and my pace picks up, a 
nice change on my last day. 

Small boats appear, but not in the numbers 
Thoreau described. He counts a hundred sailboats, 

I see eight. I do see the whale-watching boats out 
of Provincetown, as well as two large ocean lin- 
ers, one heading north, the other south. Why 
doesn’t the south-bound boat use the Cape Cod 
Canal? Perhaps its keel is too large but this seems 
unlikely. The sound of the sea is muted here, the 
first time that I have not been accompanied by its 
majestic cadences.This is the first time too, that 
I’ve been on the dunes, prohibited earlier. Thoreau, 
though, often observes the ocean from the van- 
tage point of the dunes. In some places they are 
eighty feet high, offering good views north and 
south, fore and aft. 

The water temperature is a bit warmer today, 
sixty-four degrees, and I take my final dip in the 
ocean. It has taken me six days to accomplish 
what Thoreau and his friend took three to do, 
but I am satisfied. It has been hard but reward- 
ing. 27.1 miles in thirteen hours, fifty-five min- 
utes, an average matching Thoreau’s, about two 
miles an hour. It is over. 

The beach on the Outer Cape is very little 
changed, if at all, from the way Thoreau described 
it in 1849, despite the dramatic changes that have 
taken place on the rest of the Cape. Thoreau charts 
his walk and subtly encourages us to follow in his 
footsteps, as I have done, as you can do. 1 recom- 
mend this walk. Thanks largely to the National 
Seashore Act of 1961, walks such as this, on pris- 
tine beaches such as these, will be possible as long 
as the Cape shall last, 10,000 years according to 
some geologists’ estimates. The final words will 
be Thoreau’s. Here is how he ends Cai’e Cod, with 
a warning about its future use. His cautionary 
words could not be more apt today: 

The time must come when this coast will be a place of 
resort for those New-Englanders who really wish to visit 
the sea-side. At present it is wholly unknown to the fash- 
ionable world, and probably it will never be agreeable to 
them. If it is merely a ten-pin alley, or a circular railway, or 
an ocean of mint-julip, that the visitor is in search of, — if he 
thinks more of the wine than the brine, as I suspect some 
do at Newport,—! trust that for a long time he will be dis- 
appointed here. But this shore will never be more attrac- 
tive than it is now. Such beaches as are fashionable are 
here made and unmade in a day, 1 may almost say, by the 
sea shifting its sands. Lynn and Nastasket! this bare and 
bended ami it is that makes the bay in which they lie so 
snugly. What are springs and waterfalls? Here is the spring 
of springs, the waterfall of waterfalls. A storm in the fall 
and winter is the time to visit it; a light-house or a 
fisherman’s hut the true hotel. A man may stand there and 
put all America behind him. 



To which I say, aloud this time. Amen. 



Vincent J. Cleary is Professor Emeritus of Classics at 
{JMass, Amherst, and a freelance writer living in 
Sunderland, Massachusetts. 



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PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 I PAGE 77 




FAWC FELLOWS, 1992 (L TO R, DUANE SLICK, PAUL LISICKY, 
ALICIA HENRY, MARY BEHRENS, JANE FINE, JACKIE WOODSON, 
JIM ESBER, NICK FLYNN, TIM SEIBLES) 

MARY BEHRENS 



Art. Friendship, and 
Ping-Pong 

F rom an early age 1 had been a great consumer 
of biographies. My favorite ones were about 
famous artists and writers and the worlds they 
inhabited. Paris in the '30s — Anais Nin with her 
pack of devoted artist friends and lovers; New York 
in the ’50s — the guys with their monstrous 
paintings, their women, their slavish dealers and 
collectors; and Provincetown throughout the 
century — cheap and welcoming to migratory artists 
and writers seeking a hit of dunes and sea, away 
from the swirling art scene, the city heat. 

These examples developed in me a strong 
yearning for cafe life, not to mention bar life, basi- 
cally a sort of hanging-out life, populated with 
wonderfully interesting people. Back in my early 
twenties, embarking on a wobbly art life of my 
own. 1 kept wondering where such lively social 
scenes might exist. Sure, 1 was making art, think- 
ing a lot about art and of course, wondering (ago- 
nizing) about how 1 was going to support myself — 
was I realiv destined to be a waitress for the next twenty 
L vur,s'.'’l made many artist friends, mosdy in Boston’s 
South End. where we all had studios. Yet 1 con- 
tinually longed for a sense of community. It seemed 
we were all too busy then dashing between jobs 
to create anything resembling what I had, roman- 
tically 1 suppose, hoped for. Which was this; a busy 
life, yet one with time for sitting around some- 
where, u/jwvhere, with a gang of like-minded folks, 
sipping coffee, drinking wine, smoking the occa- 
sional cigarette, sharing ideas, shooting the breeze, 
talking Art. 

When I arrived at the Fine Arts Work Center in 
'91,1 knew I had found it — at last, a place where 
people had the time and desire to discuss not only 
our work, but other issues flying about then in the 
waning reign of Bush and Quayle, when the 
economy was taking a nosedive, when the charge 
of sexual harassment, not to mention its 
pronunciation, had everyone scratching their 
heads. I remember the Clarence Thomas/ Anita Hill 
hearings — not one of us, as 1 recall, believed him 
for a second. We'd toss around race and gender, 
sexual preference, identity politics, monogamy, 
good/bad movies, where to live, whether to teach 



and, always, how to just siirx’ivc. The group that 
year was an extraordinary bunch: Jim Esber, Itty 
Neuhaus, Nick Flynn, Tim Seibles, Jane Fine, Bob 
Bailey, Duane Slick, Jackie Woodson, Paul Lisicky, 
Deborah Ajrtman, and Danella Carter, to name a 
few. We heard that it was a rare thing at the Work 
Center for all twenty artists and writers to actually 
like each other. We, remarkably, did. Though I 
don’t know the diversity spectrum of ensuing years 
at the Work Center, our year was a first for its more 
realistic reflection of American demographics. We 
were black, white. Native American, gay, straight, 
and at a time when university departments across 
the country were imploding, squabbling over 
multicultural quotas and gender-lopsidedness, we 
all got along, smack in the middle of the Rodney 
King era. 

We shared meals, the usual poverty fare — pasta, 
beans, rice, the occasional chicken — but with flair, 
with style. We joked about our loud weekly dance 
parties, calling them “love fests,” not for their sexual 
looseness, though there was certainly some of that, 
but for the affection we all shared, the raucous fun 
we had rocking out to blasting boom boxes, gy- 
rating to the likes of Queen Latifah, Counting 
Crows, The Replacements, Arrested Development, 
or whatever was around. We had plenty of stu- 
dio time, too. 1 remember wonderful visits from 
Jim, Jane, Itty, Tim, Bob, and Nick, who would 
saunter over for a look at works-in-progress, of- 
fering smart takes, questioning, discussing other 
work, making me laugh. 

Sad as it was leaving the Work Center, I made 
great friends there, people who today fomi the 
heart of my social life. And luckily, another station 
for friendships has come along in Provincetown 
to expand tlie welcome for more artists and writers. 
When DNA Gallery opened its doors in the spring 
of 1994, 1 was happy to be among the motley 
crowd of artists Nick Lawrence chose to jump-start 
the very risky business of a contemporary art 
gallery. From its beginnings the gallery has featured 
experimental work including performance art, video 
screenings, sound installations, and a reading series. 

The connection between the Work Center and 
DNA Gallery is not official and may well be 
exaggerated by my own biased and fond 
attachments to both places, but they do share a 
pluralist sensibility that seems a fitting condition 
to fin de siecle ideas — new technologies, new 
demographics, and a wide range of possibility. 
Speaking generally, if the decades between 1960 
and 1990 contained one or two major art 
movements each (Pop, Minimalism, Conceptual, 
Neo-Expressionism, etc.), the ‘90s, in contrast, 
were marked by a willful resistance to any 
hegemonic model. Installation, video, performance, 
sound, biomorphic abstraction, hard-edged 
abstraction, cartoon-inspired abstraction, 
environmental art, and computer-generated art, all 
found equal footing in the ‘90s whirlwind of high 
and low and political and apolitical art. DNA artists 
and former fellows Jenny Humphreys, Bob Bailey, 
Susan Lyman, Hiroyuki Hamada, Tabitha Vevers, and 
Nick Kahn and Richard Selesnick project and share 
no specific aesthetic agenda, yet this is exaedy what 
brings them together — a kind of camp-less spirit. 



Alongside stylistic links, DNA and the Work 
Center share another feature that adds to my 
perception of both as friendly, corner store-ish 
haunts — ping-pong tables. Swinging by DNA mid- 
aftemoon in July to chat with Jennifer, Nick, Kelly, 
Zach, or whoever is around, then meeting up with 
Damion, my loyal partner, Chris, Jane, Doug, or 
some other ping-pong addict for a quick set 
downstairs is truly a great social experience. I’ve 
never been athletic enough to develop an obsession 
with one sport — a little tennis here and there, 
throw-like-a-girl softball on occasion, skiing as a 
kid. Yet ping-pong is my kind of game — social, safe, 
a game that requires skill, reflex, and strategy yet 
not particularly large muscles. Friendships have 
been made over the ping-pong table, and if not 
quite broken over it, well . . . perhaps occasionally 
ruptured. Ping-pong has inspired art talk, joking 
around, some mean competition, even love affairs. 
Without going too far into my personal lust for 
the game, 1 will say that ping-pong, with its dual 
tensions and ease, has ruled a large part of my social 
life in Provincetown. 

Another aspect of DNA that brings friends to- 
gether is its back porch. An admittedly partial opin- 
ion, DNA's openings are the most relaxed and fun 
in town. (How many galleries anywhere have 
porches?) On a warm summer night, everyone, 
not just smokers, drifts out to the porch for its view 
of the tennis courts, trees, and sky — a soothing 
retreat from the shoulder-rubbing and hot lights 
inside. It seems the back porch offers visitors con- 
versational carte blanche, with talk often reaching 
a feverish pitch as friends and neighbors compare 
notes on art, poetry, swimming, bugs, high rents, 
who’s seeing who, who’s staying the winter, who’s 
going out for dinner, and where? 

As we careen into the 21st century, friendship, 
like reading books, can be pushed aside by lack of 
time, by other concerns. We race around coddling 
careers, nurturing children, feeling guilty as par- 
ents, feeling guilty as non-parents, clicking be- 
tween websites seeking the ultimate best deal on 
anything from utility companies to pet food. It’s 
already a cliche to say we are a fast culture, but 
we are — and we’re getting faster. But friendships, 
like books, require an occasional shift into low gear. 
Provincetown, with the Work Center, DNA, ping- 
pong tables, and other places we all find to con- 
gregate, aids the cause. Walking a few blocks down 
Commercial Street hardly presents the psychic 
challenge posed by driving around Big Dig Boston 
or hopping on three trains from Brooklyn to have 
dinner with someone in Manhattan. Provincetown 
is a breeding ground for friendships, a welcoming 
home for me, and I imagine for many others too. 
And while the world may have changed too much 
to be all cafe life, all the time, it's good to know 
that when you need it, it’s always there. 

Alary Behrens was a visual arts fellow at the Fine 
Arts Work Center in I991-9Z. Her work is 
represented in Provincetown at DNA Gallery (on 
whose website an earlier version of this essay first 
appeared) and in Boston at Creiger-Dane Gallery. 

She teaches at Montserrat College of Art in Beverly, 
Alassachnsetts. 



PAGE 78 I PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 



MELANIE BRAVERMAN 



SHAME 



lit memory of Susan Kimhall Laws 

M y friend has been dead for seven weeks. 

The first week I spent sleeping in her 
bed, the candle on the altar she’d made 
in her last month casting small light on the photos 
of her that lined the olive walls of the room. It 
should be said that I’d wanted to sleep somewhere 
else, in the cottage behind her house where my 
other friends lived, on a foldout bed covered in 
wool blankets whose weight would feel insistent, 
as if it alone could press one into sleep. But 1 did 
not go there; my dead friend’s lover is my best 
friend, and she asked me to spend the long nights 
with her in a voice 1 have come over the years to 
understand signifies pleading. We stayed up late, 
people filtering through the house like a steady, 
respectful river, bringing food, filling the place with 
so many flowers the floor grew treacherous with 
heavy florist’s vases, the air thick with the scent of 
lilies and red roses sent regularly by my best friend’s 
karate students. Another friend who had come 
with me to California spent her afternoons rearrang- 
ing the flowers. “They shouldn’t look so somber,” 
she said, and for days there were glasses and mugs 
full of showy blooms on the windowsills, the trash 
full of unwanted baby’s breath and fern. This friend 
is another of my best, and when 1 put her on a 
plane to go home, 1 felt a chill enter my body in 
the place where she had been. 1 thought of her 
often when 1 lay in our dead friend’s bed trying to 
sleep, 1 pictured her at home with her lover per- 
forming the tasks of their daily life: answering the 
phone, scolding their unappeasable dog for bark- 
ing at the people who came to visit. 

On the fourth night 1 took the photos down. 
By the time we saw our dead friend again, she’d 
been gone for exactly a week. We went to the in- 
terment center in quiet order by car, my best friend, 
my dead friend’s brother, some old friends from 
the area, a Buddhist priest, and myself, carrying 
the few artifacts that had come to symbolize her 
to us in front of our bodies like offerings. Like a 
Western version of the funeral procession I’d 
watched in Indonesia, women with elaborate 
stands of fruit on their heads, men with drums and 
symbols, the tassled bier swathed in bright cloths, 
an outsized portrait of the dead on top. I’d feared 
the smell when the flames came up, but what I 
remember is the rain in the trees that day, a flock 
of red tourist umbrellas in the open place near the 
fire, their native guide explaining in weary tones 
what the Balinese believed was happening. We 
thought it was funny that so many tourists had 
come to stand in the mud to watch, flocks of white 
ducks oblivious in the shocking green paddies on 
either side. The heat pressed in on us like too many 
children. We grew very wet. The flame smouldered 
in the rain like some latent rage until the men of 
the procession doused it with fuel, sending a black 
and orange plume into the sky. 






touched 



“He must not have wanted to go,” my lover said. 

“He’s already gone,” I said back. 

Our day was gray, a fine drizzle accompanying 
us into the quiet hall. None of us had slept. The 
room where our friend was laid out was quiet, neu- 
tral, a single skylight casting a dim, kind sheen on 
the place. I sat on a bench, one arm around my 
dead friend’s brother, who was by that time weep- 
ing. My best friend resolutely approached the body, 
which lay in a simple box and swaddled in white 
cloths like a baby, her face exposed. My best friend 
was wearing a red Chinese silk jacket and when 
she reached out and began touching her lover’s 
body, unafraid to claim it, she looked so beautiful 
and confident to me, as if over night she’d entered 
a new vocation. One Who Inters the Beloved, even 
though she’d begun whispering from somewhere 
high in her throat, saying her lover’s name over 
and over like a mantra, eyes fixed on the dead 
woman’s face, desperate to call her back, to be 
heard. She patted the face, stroked the arms and 
the short hair. She gave the body gifts to take with 
it when it went; a photo, a bracelet, a statue. 1 hadn’t 
seen my dead friend in a year, and when I was ready 
to look, I was struck not so much by the stillness of 
her eyes or the way her jaw seemed to have settled 
into a kind of resolute slackness, but by the dark 
color of her lashes, how they stood out like cater- 
pillars on her cheeks, the most animate thing in the 
box in which she lay. 



MELANIE BRAVERMAN: "I BEGAN 
MAKING THESE SHIFTS A COUPLE 
OF YEARS AGO. I DON'T KNOW 
EXACTLY WHAT THEY WERE TO ME 
WHEN I BEGAN, BUT NOW THEY 
SEEM LIKE THE EMBODIMENT OF 
MY GRIEF FOR THE DEVASTATED 
CHILD MY DEAD FRIEND WAS." 



1 sat back down on the bench. My dead friend’s 
brother read a passage from the Bible silently to 
himself. The Buddhist priest began a chant in En- 
glish that did not sound beautiful to me. Then there 
was nothing else to do. The man from the inter- 
ment center entered the room with an assistant, a 
young woman with thick, dark hair. They released 
the wheels of the gurney the body was on and 
wheeled it toward a door I hadn’t until that mo- 
ment noticed. We followed behind. The door 
swung open to a concrete room. An enormous 
furnace stood in the middle of the floor. Foundry, 

I thought. A loud industrial sound engulfed us all. 
The steel doors of the furnace parted from the 
middle, its inside glowing orange as the fluid va- 
por of the sun. We stood at a distance and watched 
as our friend’s body entered the flames, head first, 
and then the doors closed, and she was gone. Af- 
terward, the group went walking in a place that 
had been a favorite of our dead friend, and I went 
back to the house to make a meal from the food 
that had been left, vegetables and rice and chicken 
passed among us, awkward as people on first dates, 
each aware of our own burning visibility. 

The brother left for home that afternoon, never 
to be seen again. The local friends returned to their 
daily lives. I stayed for a few more days, then flew 
home on a night flight to arrive in my own town 
bleary-eyed on a cold morning, relieved to remem- 
ber that my world was full of concrete problems 
to solve, food to buy, dresses to sew for the new 
year. My best friend followed a few days later and 
remains lodged in my small house, more or less 
bereaved in the mornings, keeping candles lit all 
day and night, her work a cultivation of the past. 
What it means to enter the present is the 
acknowledgement of loss. 

Yesterday was the first I’d had alone in many 
weeks. I was sitting on the daybed looking out at 
the sky, when I noticed a furry caterpillar inching 
its way along the hem of a quilt. I considered put- 
ting the caterpillar in a jar, feeding it leaves, giving 
it to my friend to keep. I wish 1 could say that I’d 
thought what it might turn into, the kind of dra- 
matic moth it might be. I wish I could say I had 
thought of it trying its new wings in a jar in my 
house while outside winter had begun to rage. But 
I didn’t think at all. I urged the caterpillar onto a 
piece of paper and carried it outside. I knew it 
would probably die but I let it go. 

Melanie Bravennan is the author of a novel, East 
Justice (Permanent Press, I99h), and a collection of 
I’oems, Lamentations, Benedictions, and 
Indiscretions. She is Programs Adimmstrator at the 
Fine Arts Work Center, and shows visual work at the 
Schoolhouse Center. 

PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 I PAGE 79 



With 
No Land 
in Sight 

PETER ALSON 



A writer is somebody for whom wnting is more difficult 
than it is for other people. 

— Thomas Mann 

I READ THE SUN ALSO RISES on a train ride to 
Yugo-slavia in the summer of my seventeenth year. 
It was the first time I felt like I knew what 1 wanted 
to do with my life. I was in love with an American 
girl who had warned me not to go see her, but, 
with a sense of righteous doom 1 thought Jake 
Barnes might understand, I was going anyway. 

A year later, as a college freshman, I attempted 
to turn the heartache of that adventure into a novel. 

1 got about thirt)’ or forty pages into the writing, 
then lost steam. There was nothing 1 wanted more 
in the world than to write a novel, but I was too 
self-critical for my own good. The burst of energy 
with which I began the book imploded from the 
negative force of my own expectations. 

This was to happen to me again and again over 
the years with such neurotic and depressing regu- 
larity, that by the time I was thirty-seven, 1 had 
sworn off writing entirely and fallen into a life as a 
bookie. Therein, of course, lies a story, and even 
before the night the cops raided our office and 1 
was arrested, I was beginning to make notes, with 
the telling of that storv in mind. 

My eventual night and a half in the Brook- 
lyn House of Detention persuaded me to re- 
tire from bookmaking. It also persuaded me 
to give book writing one more shot. 1 knew 
two things going in. The first was that I would 
die if 1 failed again; the second was that if I 
did what 1 had always done up until then, 1 
would almost certainly fail. 

What 1 had always done up until then was this: 
at some point in the writing process, 1 would start 
to question the story and go back to the beginning 
to see where I had gone wrong. Then 1 would be- 
gin fixing things. Diere was something circular to 
the compulsion, a snake eating its own tail. But 1 
couldn't stop myself. I spent six years of my life 
on one novel, wrote and rewrote hundreds of 
pages, and never got to the end. I was approach- 
ing middle age with options narrowed. I had 
worked as a waiter, proofreader, repo man, and 
bookie. My degree in English from Harvard quali- 
fied me for nothing. If I began another book and 
repeated the old pattern — well, it wasn't a pros- 
pect I wanted to consider. 

So I made a deal with myself. I would start writ- 
ing and I would never look back. No matter what 
happened, how bad I felt, how lonely, how afraid, 
I would keep going forward. My finances were 
sufficient to last me for a little while; I had man- 
aged to stash $8,000 away while booking bets, all 

PAGE 80 I PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 




PAT DE GROOT, BIG WIND. ONCOMING STORM, 2000 



in cash. One definition of insanity is someone who 
keeps doing the same thing over and over, each 
time expecting a different result. Was I insane? 
There was only one way to find out. 

When I began the book I was living in a tiny 
one-bedroom on a tree-lined street in Brooklyn 
Heights. Each morning, 1 would wake at nine, go 
through my ablutions, then walk around the cor- 
ner to the Muslim-run variety store for the morn- 
ing paper, usually the Post or the News, rarely the 
bulkier, more time-consuming Times. I am not a 
coffee drinker, nor a breakfast person, so 1 would 
sit at my desk, read the sports pages, and by 10:30 
or eleven, take a deep breath, put the paper down, 
and open my laptop. 

At first, my process was to consult my notes to 
see what they inspired. 1 had about thirty legal 
pad pages worth of notes, plus assorted random 
thoughts and snatches of dialogue written on old 
betting slips. The notes were a comfort; they 
made me feel less alone in front of the blank blue 
computer screen. I can remember on one scrap 
of paper I had jotted down: “Dapper Dan would 
leave in the middle of a poker game to get more 
money, but instead of going to a cash machine 
he would go out and stick up a 7-11. Then he 
would return to the game. One night he didn’t 
come back. We discovered the cops had nailed 
him.” Though I didn’t wind up using that 
particular bit in the book, it was typical of the 
kind of stuff I had recorded. 

Each morning when I opened the laptop and 
turned it on, I allowed myself to read one paragraph 
back — that was all — no matter how I felt, how 
much I thought it might benefit me to read back a 
bit further. To make temptation more difficult, I 
wrote short chapters and saved each chapter on a 
separate computer file. 

The narrative of the book, 1 realize now, was 
not simple; there were a number of different plot 
strands that I was weaving together. But because 
the story was told in the first person, and in chro- 
nological sequence, I fooled myself into believing 
that it was simple. This was a necessary self-de- 
ception. I was a headcase and knew it, and like 
the coach of a talented but schizo ball player, I 



was using every cheap psychological trick I could 
think of to prevent the player (who happened to 
be me) from having a meltdown. 

My work habits were nonetheless atrocious. I 
am not one of those people with free flow; 1 am a 
bleeder, squeezing each word out with difficulty, 
and 1 could not sit at my desk for more than fif- 
teen minutes without having to get up. 1 needed 
relief too badly. So I made trips to the bathroom, 
the refrigerator, the phone, the dictionary and the 
mailbox downstairs; not to speak of the supermar- 
ket, the drugstore, the library and the post office. 
I could use the copout that I am a child of televi- 
sion, conditioned by commercial breaks, but who 
really knows? For a while, 1 tried tying myself to 
my chair with the terrycloth belt of my bathrobe. 
Finally I stopped fighting it. The only truly impor- 
tant thing was that I keep going forward. 

Three and a half months into the writing, I had 
my first real crisis. By then 1 had somehow accu- 
mulated a hundred pages. I had also exhausted my 
notes, and was having to face the empty screen 
without props. Also money was running out. 1 can’t 
remember what prompted the episode, maybe I 
just woke up flat on that particular day and sat 
down feeling low and vulnerable. Maybe the lack 
of feedback, the isolation, finally caught up to me. 
But for the first time, in a profound way, I doubted 
what I was doing. The compulsion to go back 
and look at what I’d written, to see if it was 
worth anything, was overpowering. In such a 
mood, 1 was capable of tearing things down, of 
doing terrible destruction. 

I began to think of how I’d begun the book 
and 1 suddenly knew what it was missing, what I 
could do to improve it. The old thought processes 
started up like a cold engine, coughing a few times, 
then rumbling fully back to life. If 1 didn’t go back 
and fix the beginning now. I’d never be able to. 
The pull was just like the pull of an addiction. 1 
almost gave in. Instead, my heart beating, I got up 
from the desk, went outside and took a long walk 
on the Brooklyn Heights promenade. Across the 
East River, Manhattan was hazy in the summer 
heat. “You made yourself a promise,” 1 said aloud. 
“You have to keep that promise no matter what. 
You have to.” People on the benches facing the 
river looked at me as I continued to mumble out 
loud my words of self-encouragement — another 
crazy soul who was not locked up (or at least hadn’t 
been for several months). 

1 went back to my computer. It didn’t matter 
whether the book was any good, I told myself; 
what mattered was that 1 finish it. Anything that 
needed to be fixed I could fix later. That day 1 
began jotting down in a notebook the thoughts 
I had about what changes I might want to make 
after I’d finished the first draft. But the crucial 
point was: after. 

The money problem was another matter. I didn’t 
want to get a job, didn’t want to break my work 
routine. 1 asked Eddie, one of my former business 
associates, for a loan, but he turned me down. The 
bookie office had opened up again after the bust 
and he asked me to come back. But 1 told him 1 
couldn't go. I said, “Instead of a loan, how about 
staking me in the no-limit poker game at the 
Mayfair Club?” The Mayfair was a poker club in 



Manhattan in the East 20s. I had played there a 
number of times, and I thought 1 could make 
money in the big game if 1 had a stake. Eddie said 
he’d have to watch me play first. 

So he went with me one night and we both 
played in the game on his money. At the end of 
the night, he had lost a thousand, but 1 had won 
$2,800. He said, “Okay, that’s your stake. We’ll 
leave the money on account here. Whatever you 
win, 1 get half.” 

After that, 1 began playing at the Mayfair three 
or four times a week. 1 would go in at eight or nine 
at night, play until they closed at four in the morn- 
ing, then cab home to Brooklyn and sleep in until 
eleven or noon. 

My writing routine remained the same, if on a 
slightly different clock. I usually got down to work 
after lunch, which, now that 1 was again flush with 
cash, I ate out at a local diner. At 1 :30 or two, 1 
would go back to the apartment, and keep writing 
in my usual fits and starts until 1 left for the club or 
for the occasional evening out on the town (New 
York is a great place when you have a pocket full 
of hundred dollar bills). My writing pace slowed, 
but I was enjoying myself. 1 felt like 1 had discov- 
ered a viable way to live. In three months, I wrote 
another seventy-five pages and made $ 15,000 play- 
ing poker, of which I kept half. 

Then 1 hit a bad streak. 

I lost $6,000 in two weeks. Sitting at my desk, 

I found myself thinking about poker hands I’d 
played the night before. At the poker table, I was 
worrying about whether I’d be able to finish the 
book. The perfect balance I’d maintained for months 
was gone. I needed to come up with another plan. 

A good friend of mine, who happened to head 
up the East Coast development office of a big Hol- 
lywood producer, said that maybe I would like to 
let her take a look at what 1 had written so far. 
The notion made me very nervous. Then she found 
out that I had not even printed out the pages I had 
written up until then. 

“Are you crazy?” she said. “Haven’t you heard 
that computers crash? What kind of self-destruc- 
tive idiot are you?” 

It was a rhetorical question. She’d known me 
for years. I tried to justify myself anyway. “If I print 
it out. I’ll be tempted to read it.” 

“Print it,” she said. “And mail it to me. I’ll keep 
it for you.” 

Grateful to have someone concerned and tell- 
ing me what to do, I followed her orders. 

Of course as I knew would happen, when she 
received the 175 pages in the mail, she asked me 
if she could read it. I was dying for some feedback, 
but said I didn’t think it would be a good idea. 

“Look,” she said, “I have a confession to make. 
I already started reading it. 1 thought you’d say 
yes and ...” the pause between “and” and what 
followed was maybe a millisecond but it felt the 
way I imagine it feels after you hear the word “fire” 
and you’re standing blindfolded in front of a firing 
squad. 

“And it’s good,” she said. “Really good.” 

I tried to let that sink in. “You liked it?” 

“I like it a lot.” 



“Really?” I felt my head get hot with tears. “How 
far — how much have you read?” 

She cleared her throat, laughed, and said, “I 
actually stayed up until four in the morning. I read 
everything.” 

I forgave her immediately. How could I not? 
She had liked it! I wanted to hear more, and at the 
same time didn’t want her to say anything that 
would take away from what she’d already said. 
The next morning she called me again. Would it 
be all right, she asked, if she showed it to her boss? 

Looking back on all this, 1 suppose that bring- 
ing other people in while the book was still in 
progress was dangerous, even foolhardy of me. I 
might have been setting myself up, just in a differ- 
ent way than I had in the past. But after months 
and months of working in the dark, a certain de- 
mentia sets in, the way it does if you do anything 
alone for too long; it becomes difficult to trust 
your own judgment and you lose your place in 
the world — at least I do. In this case, however, I 
was lucky. 

A week after my friend gave the pages to her 
boss, he said he wanted to meet me, and in the 
meeting he told me that he wanted to option my 
book for a movie. Again, I suppose this could have 
gone either way. Expectation might have crippled 
me. But for some reason it didn’t. In fact, the op- 
posite occurred. I wrote the next 150 pages in a 
month and a half. I was energized in a way I never 
had been before, eager to finish, barely able to sleep 
at night. 

I have come, after all these years, to understand 
a few things about myself. But my writing process 
is still essentially a mystery to me. I know that 
faith is a big part of the picture, a necessary com- 
ponent for making something difficult work. Some- 
times I think of writing a book, metaphorically, as 
being dropped into the middle of the ocean with 
no land in sight. There’s only one real strategy, 
though it remains difficult for me to follow: pick a 
direction, start swimming, and never turn back. 

Peter Alson is the author of the memoir Confessions 
of an Ivy League Bookie. His writing has af’f’eared 
in many jHiblkations, including Playboy, Esquire, 
and George. 

This essay first appeared in How We Work (Peter 
Lang Publishing, 1999). Rei’rinted by I’ermission. 





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PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 I PAGE 81 







Great Moments in Neutrino History 



BETSY TERRELL 



Summer 1988, Steps of Town Hall, Provincetown 

It’s a rag tag band — acoustic guitar, horns, a set 
of drums in a shopping cart — but we’re a family. 
The two oldest children are dancing out front, a 
simple, old-fashioned dance to the tune of “Tea 
for Two.” Suddenly the band breaks into an en- 
thusiastic “Five Foot Two,” and Todd tosses his 
hat in the air, letting out a war-whoop cheer as he 
and Ingrid launch into a wild Charleston. It’s the 
show stopper, reserved for the climax of the set, 
and the regulars in the audience, mosdy older Prov- 
incetown residents, greet the familiar number with 
applause and big grins. Many step up to make their 
customary contribution of a few coins or a dollar 
bill to the open case. Tourists, who have been 
blocking traffic along Commercial Street in order 
to view the impromptu outdoor perfomtance, fol- 
low suit. This is a nightly ritual here in front of 
Town Hall, and the Flying Neutrinos are becom- 
ing something of a town institution. 

By day, while living in tents and a converted 
bookmobile truck parked at the local campground, 
the whole family is resurrecting a condemned 




FLYING NEUTRINOS BAND, SUMMER 1988 
PHOTOS DONNA LONDAGIN 



PAGE 82 I PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 



What is a Neutrino? 

Scientifically, neutrinos are subatomic particles that zap 
freely throughout the universe, invisible but ever-present. 
Although no one has ever seen one, scientists are cer- 
tain they exist. The human soul or spirit is also some- 
thing that most people claim never to have seen, and so 
think does not exist. Therefore, the neutrino is for us a 
symbol of all the unseen but nevertheless real parts of 
ourselves and the universe, which must be taken into 
account if we are to become whole and fully mani- 
fested. The Neutrino Movement is about getting free 
of all obstacles, internal and external, that block people 
from living their dreams. 

Who are the Neutrinos? 

David Pearlman, aka Poppa Neutrino, the patriarch and 
founder of the band; Betsy Terrell, co-founder; the Neu- 
trino kids— Ingrid Lucia, Todd Londagin, Marisa Terrell, 
Esther Jo Armstrong, and Jessica Terrell; the crew of the 
Son of Town Hall on the Atlantic crossing— Ed Garry 
and Rodger Doncaster; Tim Johnson and Gretchen Baer, 
who built Dragonfly's Banquet, which now resides in 
the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge; and anyone struggling 
to be true to his or her deepest desires, and willing to go 
through fears and fog in order to live according to one's 
own script, is a Neutrino. 

Neutrino Ideas 

Triadic thinking proposes that three possibilities exist in 
any situation, or that three elements are necessary for 
the manifestation of any force. For example, the three 
elements necessary for a vessel to function on the water 
are: it must float, go, and stop. The three possibilities 
that exist in any situation for everyone are: participate, 
redirect, or leave. The seven levels are the seven parts of 
yourself, corresponding to the seven chakras in Eastern 
philosophy. They are: the instinctive, which has to do with 
physical nurturing and well-being; the sexual: the 
imitative, which consists of everything learned through 
imitation, from talking and writing to high finance; the 
emotional, the intellectual (describing, comparing, and 
evaluating); the higher emotional which is your spiritual 
self; and the higher intellectual which has to do with 
cosmic consciousness. 

docking barge, stuffing it with recycled foam and 
building cabins and paddlewheels from the remains 
of discarded dock floats. We put in an auction bid 
of one dollar on the old generator in the basement 
of the Town Hall, and win the power plant to run 
our paddlewheels. In honor of Provincetown, we 
call our raft the Town Hall. This will be home to 
us, and also to our adopted Mexican family, whom 
we met the previous winter while performing with 
a Mexican circus. We plan a world-traveling show- 
boat and school. All the Neutrino children are be- 
ing home educated, so why not just expand it to 
include the Mexican family, and others we meet 
along the way? 




TOWN HALL UNDER CONSTRUCTION, 1988 PHOTO: BEATA COOK 



The Town Hall eventually made her way to New 
York' City, where an official Coast Guard order declared 
her "manifestlv unsafe," and put an end to her voyage. 
Vndaunted, u’C started over. If the Coast Guard con- 
sidered the Towr\ Hall not seaworthy, we would design 
and buiid a totally new raft that would he truly ocean- 
going — self-righting, sail-powered, self-steering in 
storms. TaL’ing a few odd pieces from the Town Hall, i 
along with logs from the Hudson River, and scrap from 
the streets and dumpsters of the city, we built the Son 
of Town Hall. Meanwhile, the Lids grew, and Ingrid, 
with Todd, took over the band, playing to packed clubs 
in New York, Atlantic Gity Las Vegas, and even Eu- 
rope. After releasing their first album, produced by 
Poppa, they landed a record deal. 

We established the Mexican family in a small border 
town, where they acquired a piece of land and built a 
house with financial help from us and many of our fans. 
All the children made steady progress through school. 
Although satisfied that we had helped this one family, 
we were increasingly appalled at stories we read and 
saw on PBS about small children enslaved as carpet 
makers in India and Pakistan, and orphans shot in the i| 
streets in Brazil. Our original dream of a showboat- i| 
school raft gradually expanded to the idea of an ocean- 
traveling orphanage for street children from third world 
countries. In the spring of 1995, after a major 
investigation by the Coast Guard that resulted in a report 
lauding our highly practical, though unconventional, 
construction methods, we left New York on the Son of , 
Town Hall, headed for Provincetown — a few 
modifications and fine-tuning, we figured, and wc would 
be ready to set sail for Europe. 

February, 1996, Cabral’s Wharf, Provincetown | 

I look down over the wall, the wind driving 
the snow into my face. It is dark, and very hard to 
see, but I know something is terribly wrong. My 
heart beating faster, I call to David to hurry. He 
comes alongside and looks down. “Oh my God, 
she’s flipped,” he says. By now I have managed to 
make out the side of the raft, covered by a yellow 
and white circus tarp, and the little square holes 
of the windows now facing the sky. “She’s on her 
side,” I gasp, still in disbelief. We built this raft to 
be self-righting, and there she lies, floating on her 
side in the water. My mind is reeling. How on 
earth could this have happened? Were we really 
that totally oblivious to the reality of the forces 
of nature? 

Over the next few days, as we make trips to 
the raft every daytime low tide to empty her of all • 



3ur family’s worldly possessions, now hopelessly 
kvaterlogged, we piece together the elements that 
ed to this disaster. Months of living in the raft 
Mthout traveling, tied up at the foot of the pier, 
aad lulled us into a landlubberly, lackadaisical at- 
itude. Our acquisition of objects had grown, and 
everything was helter-skelter, nothing tied or bat- 
;ened as it would be for going to sea. Snow, wet 
ind heavy, had accumulated on the roof. We knew 
;hat weight on the roof would cause the raft to be 
/ery tippy, and always kept all the weight low 




I — I ■ I II I 2 . , 

JRAGONFLY’S BANQUET OFF THE MASSACHUSEHS COAST 
>HOTO: AURELIA NEUTRINO 



kvhile at sea, but who would have thought of snow? 
\s the raft listed a little, things inside slid across 
loward the low side, causing her to tip more. Then 
kvater sloshed in through the raft’s sides, left open 
during construction, augmenting the tilt still more. 
K boat would have sunk, but the raft went on float- 
ng — just on her side instead of her bottom. 

Although we have the help of our loyal friends 
jnd supporters, this incident is the last straw, as 
far as many locals are concerned. The newspapers 
display headlines like, “Ship of Fools,” and “It’s 
rime to Anchor the Floating Neutrinos,” along with 
wvid photos of the pathetic beached whale of a 
raft. The harbor master appears on the beach the 
morning after the incident and curtly informs 
David he has twenty-four hours to get this mess 
all cleared out of here. 

By the time the Coast Guard arrives for yet an- 
other inspection, we have emptied and righted the 
raft, and replaced the outriggers for extra stability. 
Bill McNulty, former Town Manager and a close 
friend, who is also trained as a marine architect, 
explains to the Coast Guard officers the strength 
of the construction and the not so obvious rea- 
sons behind its seemingly accidental elements. 
Lieutenant Doloff and David sit in the sand while 
David draws diagrams demonstrating the prin- 
ciples behind every aspect of the design. “True, 
we have a few more things to figure out,” he says, 
“and we will not cross the Atlantic until we have 
them solved, but we still intend to take this raft 
around the world.” In the end, the Coast Guard 
declines to stop our voyage, although they warn 
they will be keeping a close eye on us. 

That spring and summer, as we sailed along the 
coasts of Massachusetts and Maine, and all through the 
following winter, frozen in the Maine cold, we wrestled 
with design flaws, made test runs, built models, tried 



dozens of different plans, until finally we had all the 
problems solved. The following summer, after final test 
runs proved successful, we provisioned and set out to 
make the crossing. But luck was against us — in spite of 
the raft's brilliant performance in the few days of near- 
gale force winds, most of our forty days at sea were 
plagued by record calms. August found us off the coast 
of Newfoundland, too late in the season to go funher. 
We left the raft there for the winter, returning the follow- 
ing spring to set out once more, enthusiastic and incred- 
ibly naive about the thousands of miles of ocean, and 
the Inner tests, that lay ahead. 

August 13, 1998, Within Sight of Ireland 

We are approaching the coast of Ireland. The 
Irish Coast Guard has come out to welcome and 
escort us into Castletownbere, which is inside a 
long inlet between jutting peninsulas of gently 
rolling green hills. It’s an astonishingly beautiful 
sight after 60 days of nothing but sea and sky. 1 
am sitting on the top deck and crying. They are 
tears of joy and relief and accomplishment against 
incredible odds; tears of overwhelming surprise as 
applause and cheers reach our ears from the doz- 
ens of small boats coming out to meet us. But they 




SON OF TOWN HALL IN THE NORTH ATLANTIC, AUGUST 1998 
PHOTO: AURELIA NEUTRINO 



are also tears of sorrow, as I leave behind the open 
ocean and the rawness that comes from extended 
immersion in that isolated and bare-bones envi- 
ronment. It has been a deeply transforming pas- 
sage, and not one of us will ever be the same. We 
have overcome storms at sea, made repairs under- 
way, and gained tremendous confidence in the 
raft’s abilities. None of us would hesitate to sail 
anywhere on earth aboard this vessel, whether the 
Northwest Passage, Cape Horn, or Antarctica. In 
the enormous emptiness of the seemingly endless 
ocean, we have each plumbed our own depths and 
found there strength, courage and joy. We have 
seen for ourselves what is possible when human 
creativity and ingenuity are pitted against the ele- 
ments. And we are eager to share it with others. 

Sometime in the Future 

Under sunny tropical skies, driven along by a 
huge spread of patchwork sails, a 110-foot raft 
called the Vilma B makes her passage from South 
America toward India. Children’s voices echo 
across the water as they run and play along her 
decks. Up on the bow, children practice musical 
instruments and sing under Poppa Neutrino’s di- 
rection; at the stem, near the plankton catcher, a 
lesson in marine biology is underway; in the 
chartroom, a group works with the navigator to 



figure out the day’s noon sextant shot, comparing 
their calculated position with the satellite reading. 
The children are from many different countries, 
but have one thing in common: they are all from 
the streets, where they had survived without par- 
ents before choosing to come to the raft. Here they 
have space to heal and grow, and an opportunity 
to learn as they travel the world. 

Meanwhile, the Son of Town Hall crosses the 
Atlantic for the third time. Having completed her 
circumnavigation when she traversed the longi- 
tude of Marseilles in the Mediterranean, she is now 
headed toward New York and then Provincetown 
to revisit the ports of her birth. Sailed by an all 
female crew, she is a training ship for young 
women with drugs and alcohol in their past. Here, 
counselors convey the skills they need to support 
themselves with an independent trade, to proceed 
proactively toward their deepest desires in life. 

A third raft. Absolute Absolution, is commanded 
by Ed Garry, who made the first Atlantic crossing 
with us on Son of Town Hall. A trimaran, it is headed 
for Antarctica with a crew of adventurers, pursu- 
ing the dual paths of outer and inner exploration. 

We envision a time in which Neutrino-inspired 
rafts are a common sight in every port and on ev- 
ery waterway of the world. If McDonald’s can do 
it, why not the Neutrinos? 

Betsy Terrell is a licensed cajHain who has been building 
rafts with Poppa Neutrino for twenty-five years. 

Together they raised and home-schooled fve children, 
much of the time on scrap-built rafts. She plans to spend 
the rest of her life sailing rafts, teaching, and writing. 

Editor’s note: With regret, I must report that the 
latest development in the Neutrino story is not a 
happy one. According to Capt. Betsy, on May 8th, 
the Hudson River Park Tmst, in an attempt to “re- 
locate” the Town Hall from its legal anchorage near 
Pier 25 in New York City, destroyed the raft when 
a towing strap snapped, spilling the shattered raft 
and the Neutrino’s possessions into the Hudson. 
Another raft. Child of Amazon, was also moved. Its 
owner, who was refused the right to board and 
collect his belongings, lost his green card, his 
father’s ashes, and his cat. Capt. Betsy says that 
the actions were taken on behalf of real estate in- 
terests, without warning or due process. 

In an official Neutrino statement. Poppa Neu- 
trino and Capt. Betsy, who were in Minnesota 
working on the Vilma B at the time of the incident, 
wrote, “The Town Hall, from its very inception, it 
seems, was destined eventually to fall victim to 
the bureaucrats.” They reflected on the irony of a 
“symbol of creative recycling” that transformed 
“the debris of an overindustrialized society” into 
art, falling prey to a supposed clean-up effort. Not- 
ing that parts of the Town Hall were used in the 
building of the Son of Town Hall and the Vilma B, 
they quoted a Provincetown resident who once 
admitted, “It’s too late to neuter the Neutrinos, 
they’ve already multiplied,” and, with typical te- 
nacity, they concluded, “Just try and stop us.” 



PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 I PAGE 83 



With Nothing but 

Ciratitude 

PAM HOUSTON 



N early three years ago, I got pregnant, 
went crazy, lost the baby, and had my 
computer stolen, in that order, and all 
in a very short time. Then I went on a 
fifteen-day cruise through the Panama 
Canal with my then boyfriend (the baby's father) 
and my dad. It was the darkest, most terrifying 
four months of my adult life, and 1 still shudder to 
think how close I came to going under. It was as if 
the whole series of events was designed by some 
universal force bent on ending my denial and pro- 
moting major change — a kind of This Is Yoiir Life 
for dysfunctionals. It wasn't simply that the force 
wanted to dissuade me from any false sense of 
security 1 might have been harboring; they wanted 
to detonate it like a neutron bomb. 

Prior to my pregnancy, I had always existed 
around the edges of my occasional suicidal tenden- 
cies, which seemed in those days to be three parts 
despair and one part melodrama, a weather pat- 
tern 1 could step into and out of without ever really 
getting wet. If 1 was still asking the question Am I 
stneidaT 1 always drought it was a pretty safe bet 
that I wasn't. Tlris time, though, the darkiress set in 
immediately and stayed, and I was immobilized by 
it beyond questioning. 1 was adrift in a black sea 
under a black sky waiting for a black wave, the one 
bigger dran all dre others, that would suffocate me, 
annihilate me, finish me off. 

After two months of terror so intense 1 stopped 
getting out of bed in the morning (most days, even 
in the afternoon), it occurred to me to get back 
into therapy. I was still pregnant then and sur- 
rounded by people who said. Of course you won 't till 
yourself, you luiye uuother life iusule you. which made 
sense in dreorv’, but in practice w'as anodrer diing. 
Nfy obstetrician said dre same driirg every time: mooil 
swings lire conunou. luw^ iu there till the seeoiul tri- 
mester. but drere w'asn't any swinging involved in 
my long, slow descent, and making it to the end of 
dre day had become too much of a challenge for me. 

1 had been in therapy before, brief stints of it 
wiren I w'as nursing a broken heart, or having a 
hard time making career decisions. Those epi- 
sodes had been all about self-examination and 
self-improvement, not survival, and I often had 
the suspicion that those therapists were having a 
hard time keeping up with me. I had always been 
articulate and self-deceiving enough to convince 
them that 1 deserved their stamp of mental health 
after only a few weeks or months of work, and 
I W'as always set free by them, all the darkest places 
in me still left unexplored. 

This time was different. This time I sat quietly 
in the office with my lungs empty of oxygen and 
my limbs exhausted beyond use. This time I was 
so uncomfortable in my own skin I couldn't have 
come up w'ith a lie convincing enough to fool 



PAGE 84 I PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 



anyone. With every breath I took I felt mild surprise 
that I was still alive. 

Doctor L. had been recommended by a friend. 
He was exactly my age. Other than that, 1 knew 
nothing about him. 

He looked at me across a hundred thousand 
miles of black water. 

“Help me,” I said, “save me, please.” 

And he took out his pad and pencil and said, 
“All right, 1 will.” 

I don’t know how many hours we spent to- 
gether that first day, but I know I talked for 
what seemed like forever, and then we w'ent sepa- 
rately to lunch, and then I came back and talked 
forever again. I remember his pencil flying across 
the paper. I remember him drawing lines and 
circles and arrows like John Madden did on 
Monday Night Football. I remember being as- 
tonished at his ability to integrate everything 1 
had thrown at him, the most random collage, 
his willingness to stay focused intently enough 
to take it all in. 

By the end of that first day we had a plan 
about how to get through the next several. And 
though the work we would do together would 
demand more of me than 1 would have thought 
myself capable, and though we would uncover 
in those first few months a lion's share of grim 
details from a past I had mostly forgotten, once 
1 started working with him there was never a 
single day that didn't feel at least a little better 
than all the days before. 

I don't want to spend the words or the grief it 
would take to recount my personal history. Like 
all atrocities, the things that happened to me as a 
child were simultaneously profound and generic, 
and for tliat reason, as well as many others, 1 have 
not yet figured out how to tell that story on the 
page. And anyway, this is an essay about healing, 
not about the story tliat necessitated it. It is about 
the first person in thirty-seven years who gave me 
pemrission to tell my story, the first person who 
gave me pennission to remember it, the first per- 
son who gave a voice to the girl who’s always been 
drowning in that black sea. 

1 spent the first two months in therapy learn- 
ing to trust Dr. L. enough to tell him the truth, at 
least the surface truth, at least what I thought the 
truth was before our work showed me that the 
truth was always a slippery thing. On the one hand 
this was easy. He was the only person available 
for trusting. He was the guy with the lifeline in his 
hand, but as he was quick to point out, 1 had made 
the choice against trust plenty of times before. 

I have always thought of myself as a ridicu- 
lously confessional person, both in my life and 
in my work, but it didn’t take long before 1 real- 
ized I was telling Dr. L. things 1 had never even 
thought to tell anyone, the stories I didn’t even 
Icnow I knew for certain, the stories no one could 
tell without being struck down dead. 

Dr. L. presented himself with the perfect com- 
bination of intelligence and empathy; beneath 
that he had honesty and humor. I remember one 
day, early on, we were talking about the Tori Amos 
song, “Silent All These Years.” I was saying how I 
had always related so much to that song, though I 
could never figure out why, since it seemed like 



I’d done nothing but talk since the day 1 was born. 
“Right,” he said, laughing, “you’ve been verbal all 
these years.” We laugh a lot in that office, and about 
things you wouldn’t even believe. 

During our second session, we found out that 
we had both gotten perfect scores on the ana- 
lytical portion of the Graduate Record Exam 
(GRE), which explained why he was the first' 
therapist I’d ever been to who could stay one 
step ahead of me. What impressed me most about 
him in those first few sessions was that he wasn’t 
afraid to back up and revise an earlier opinion, . 
he was always quick to own his own issues, and ■ 
he’d always tell me when he thought he might 
have been wrong. He said. One day Til say some- 
thing really stuj’id and you 'll loot at me and roll your 
eyes and that will he a difficult day for both of us, and 
that has happened in three years, but not very, 
often. Although 1 now know he is only four or 
five inches taller than I am, that whole first year 
I literally believed he was seven feet tall. 

• 

This is probably not the best time to write this i 
essay. It is possible that I should wait until I’m not 
longer seeing Dr. L. and 1 can see the completed; 
arc of our process together, until I’m not so con-i 
sumed with fear about violating it, until I’ve re- 
membered everything I’m going to remember 
about my past and decided exactly what relation- 
ship to truth these memories have. It is somewhat 
dishonest, 1 know, to try to keep separate the past 
from the healing, and perhaps later I won’t feeh 
that necessity. I fear dishonesty more than any- 
thing, and yet I understand that I am capable of it,i 
even sometimes in Dr. L.’s office, even here on thei 
page where I’m striving for truth with all my might. I 

After two months of working together, I was i 
convinced I had never felt safer with anyone ini 
my life, and Dr. L. was convinced I was a post- 
traumatic stress victim. For both of these rea- 
sons, he suggested that if I survived the Panama' 
Ganal cruise, upon my return, we should begin a' 
therapeutic process of remembering called! 
EMDR. In the seven days before the cruise, I lost 
both my baby and my computer, and you would' 
have thought that would have given me pause,' 
but out to sea I went like a lemming. 

My father, my boyfriend, and 1 all slept in' 
the same cabin — bed, bed, bed, like pigs in blan- 
kets — until the woman at guest services got a; 
whiff of the tension and began, when she could,! 
to slip me keys to vacant rooms. I spent the whole 
fifteen days in Ali’s Rope-a-dope position, and' 
came home a little high on my own survival and 
ready for anything; it might as well be EMDR. 

EMDR stands for eye movement desensitiza- 
tion and reprocessing. It is practiced by thera- 
pists in lieu of hypnotism or in addition to more 
traditional talk therapy, and I’ll try to explain it 
the way it was explained to me. 

There was a therapist at Stanford University, 
named Francine Shapiro, who found herself feeling 
weighted down by the anxiety her patients were I 
unloading on her. She went for a walk outside her, 
office building, and spotted two birds chasing each I 
other between a tree and a telephone pole. As she| 
watched them, she was in tune enough with her, 
psyche to realize that her anxiety was lifting; thei 



onger she watched the movement of the birds, 
he better she started to feel. 

This made her think of REM sleep, and how in 
ireams, which are brought on by rapid eye move- 
Tient, our minds are given a chance to release our 
ears and anxieties. In dreams we process all the 
raumas, great and small, that we are not able to 
:ope with as they are happening to us in the course 
)f our week or day. She recalled the research that 
ndicated that patients who are deprived of REM 
sleep go crazy in a matter of weeks, even if they 
rave been allowed to sleep without dreaming. She 
rypothesized that if rapid eye movement could 
3e re-created in a therapeutic environment with a 
)OSt-traumatic stress victim who is lucid and 
iwake, it might allow the brain to release memo- 
ies that had not been previously available in the 
same way that dream images are released in sleep. 

It wasn’t too long after that that EMDR was 
3om. In the beginning the therapist achieved the 
lesired effect by moving her hand back and forth 
n front of the patient’s face and instructing the 
Datient to follow her. Some years later an entre- 
preneur invented a light bar the patient could sit 
and watch. By the time I was ready to try EMDR, 
ioctors understood that the brain relinquishes its 
ocked memories with any type of rapidly altemat- 
ng right brain/left brain stimulation. 1 use head- 
phones, a system as nonintrusive as a Walkman, 
Mth a simple one-pitch tone in each ear. 

Francine Shapiro believed that the psyche, like 
;he skin or the bones, can knit and heal if the 
:onditions are made ripe for healing. More im- 
portant, even, than remembering the trauma, is 
;he reprocessing part of the equation. Once the 
;rauma is set free from that enlarged and iso- 
ated place in the brain, all our adult coping skills 
:an be brought to bear upon it. The remembered 
went stops being a monster under the bed and 
starts being what it is, something bad that hap- 
pened a very long time ago. 

I was terrified the first day I tried EMDR, not 
because of what I thought I might find lurking in 
my mind’s recesses, but because of what I feared I 
might not. Dr L. was fairly sure my trauma history 
was going to turn out to be ugly and extensive, and 
1 didn’t want to let his hypothesis down. By that 
time the combination of how much help I needed, 
how analytically able I was, how dedicated I was 
to my own survival, and how engaging a story I 
could tell had made me one of Dr. L.’s most valued 
patients, or at least that’s what I needed to tell myself 
at the time. 

I had visions of myself putting on the 
headphones, hearing the tones, and remembering 
nothing. Dr. L. waiting and waiting for some 
glimmer of trauma to flash across my face, and 
then finally, sadly, shaking his head. 1 would be an 
EMDR failure, I feared, someone who spent her 
life swimming in and out of the big black ocean 
just because she was too stupid to stay on land like 
everybody else. She's nielodrawatic, the everpresent 
critic in my head said, site's a writer. We've always 
known she's been over the tof>. 

With all that noise going on in my brain, it’s a 
wonder 1 could hear the tones inside the machine 
at all, but it wasn’t two full minutes into the pro- 
cess before the images started coming. It was not 



unlike pushing a movie into a VCR, the slight de- 
lay and then the film's initial images, not coherent 
or chronological at first, but eerily precise, a dark 
and experimental tale filmed by some nihilist direc- 
tor and a cameraman with a love for the wide-angle 
lens. There were my mother’s tulips, there were 
the tiny white stones that covered the log-land- 
scaped steps down the back of a house I would 
have said, had I been asked, that I didn’t remem- 
ber. There was the clothes dryer where I hid from 
the mayhem. There was the oak tree the cat al- 
ways climbed when the fur started flying inside. 

The images came back, one at time, eventually 
enough of them to form scenes and stories, more 
and more of them throughout that whole sum- 
mer, some of them more gruesome than it would 
have been possible for me to imagine, some of 
them sweet and quiet and strangely light. 

In the beginning I would tell Dr. L. about each 
image as it crossed my interior field of vision. As 
we got better together he would wait until I had 
stories and scenes. We isolated three ages on 
which to focus, five, eight, and twelve, and three 
girls sprang to life out of these sessions and be- 
came so real to me that Dr. L. said he was the 
only therapist he knew who was trying to cure 
a patient of post-traumatic stress syndrome by 
giving her multiple personality disorder. 

The five-year-old was the most accessible, the 
toughest, in a way, because she had not yet lost 
her hope, and she became our best source of in- 
formation. The eight-year-old wouldn’t come out 
of the dark for months, until I finally employed a 
tactic to get to her that I use in writing. I found a 
metaphor: horses, the thing she loved best, and we 
started with horse memories, drew her out with 
those, and worked our way back from there. The 
twelve-year-old is still mostly hiding, though she 
comes to me in moments. I haven’t yet discovered 
the metaphor that unlocks her door. 

The whole EMDR process is, in fact, so much 
like writing that for a while I got the two con- 
fused. When I write a story 1 start, almost al- 
ways, with an image: a horse that wrapped his 
big neck around to eat green figs out of my hands, 
or the way the lines under the eyes of the man I 
love grow at once deeper and softer when he 
makes love to me right at dawn. I believe if I 
write the image truly enough, the meaning of 
the scene will rise up and out of it, will distill 
itself organically, and the story will be truer than 
anything I could write another way. It is the im- 
age, I believe, that knows the truth of the story, 
and if I have faith in it, it will lead me away from 
all the smoke and noise my conscious brain tries 
to use to control it, and deep into the heart of the 
story I’m trying to tell. 

In EMDR, too, the images that lead me into 
the corners of my brain hold all the secrets, hold all 
the terror and pain. Like any monster under the bed, 
when they are brought to the light they lose some 
of their power, and become known, not by their 
reputation, but by their often diminished truth. 

If writing is about taking the details that have 
been overlooked, and recognizing them for their 
profoundness, then EMDR is about taking the de- 
tails that have been made too much of, and releas- 
ing them to a manageable size. In writing we try 













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PAGE 86 I PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 



to find the truth that will make a story last forever, 
in EMDR we try to find the truth that will allow 
us to let a story go. 

Until 1 did this work 1 always thought denial 
meant that you know, but you pretend not to. 
With EMDR 1 learned that it’s really slightly more 
complicated, you really don't know, until you 
do, and that’s when you realize that part of you 
always did. 

When 1 would get a memory, especially if it 
was a particularly grisly one, 1 would tell Dr. L. 
about it, and we would revisit it again and again 
from every possible viewpoint. First I'd be the 
little girl and then I'd be an observer. Eventually 
I'd be myself grown up, the observer again, but 
big and strong enough to step in. You can see, 
again, how this is like writing. 1 would revisit 
the scene from various narrative positions: first 
person past tense, first person present, third per- 
son limited, third person omniscient, everything 
from Nick Carroway's remove to Stephen 
Dedalus' immediacy, we'd rewrite die scene us- 
ing every' trick in the book. 

When it was over there was sadness, sometimes 
shock, but no longer terror. I was a grownup. 1 
could step in. I could save that little girl. 

In time 1 came to understand that the right 
brain/left brain stimulation docs more than just 
throw one image up at a time, though that is 
often the only way my brain can translate it. 
But sometimes, if 1 let it happen, I get a glimpse 
of my entire memory bank and how it all fits 
together. Sometimes I see a whole cross section 
of my consciousness, a layer-cake microchip kind 
of thing that 1 could have access to all at once if 
only I were smart enough. One day the chip 
handed me the entire 1980 Philadelphia Phillies 
roster, even the relief pitchers, and as far as I 
knew I hadn’t asked. 

I know it sounds simplistic, perhaps even mo- 
ronic, but that summer, with the help of Dr. L. 
and EMDR, I learned to tell the difference be- 
tween what felt good and what felt bad. It was 
not a distinction that 1 had previously been ca- 
pable of, and once I was capable of it. it was the 
most profound experience of my life. 

The girls — my five- eight- and twelve-year- 
old — went with me everywhere and helped me 
make decisions that would keep me moving to- 
ward the good things, and moving away from the 
bad. In between EMDR sessions. Dr. L. and I con- 
tinued what I would call present-centered talk 
therapy, but when I was having some trouble re- 
solving an issue, he would say. Why don't yon }nit 
the headphones on and ash the girls’ and I would. 

We used EMDR differendy those days, as a tool 
to open up, not the memory exactly, but the imagi- 
nation. We were talking one day about some 
trouble I was having with a friend in my life who 
had become a mother figure and I found myself 
wondering, if my mother hadn’t died several years 
before, would I have confronted her with the 
memories that the EMDR had restored? 

Wiy don't yon do that, Dr. L. said, go have a talk 
with her and see if any of the girls want to go along? 

1 put the headphones on and asked them. At 
first, they all said no, but eventually the five-year- 
old relented. She said she’d come, but she wasn’t 



going to say anything. She was just going to sit in 
her chair and watch what happened with her arms 
tightly folded over her chest. 

My mother was my “good parent” and I seem 
to be married to that notion of her more than 
Dr. L. approves of, and more than the girls can 
tolerate. They are always skeptical when 1 pro- 
pose a visit to her. 

I called the meeting to take place in the last 
kitchen she had before she died. It was a house I 
had never lived in, so I figured we’d both feel 
pretty safe in it for different reasons. The five- 
year-old sat down at the kitchen table and I sat 
down next to her. We waited for my mother to 
settle in, but she kept shape-shifting into a big 
dark bird, a raptor of some kind — first an owl, 
then a hawk, and making big loops around the 
open kitchen/dining/living room. The little girl 
and 1 exchanged glances. Give her time to settle in, 
she seemed to say, she's even more nervous than ns. 

Eventually, she settled in, turned back into a 
woman, and I started talking, telling her the 
memories one at a time, starting with the most 
benign and working toward the most awful. My 
mother’s face was set in the smile she reserved 
for my father and the camera. She was smiling 
too much and too steadily, and after a while the 
five-year-old reached over and pulled her face 
off and it turned out to be a mask, a Screen Ac- 
tors Guild happy face in the image of my mother. 

The five-year-old and I stared a long time at 
what was behind the mask. My mother was 
made of stone, her face had no features, just in- 
dentations for the eyes and mouth and nostrils. 
The five-year-old stood up and walked around 
the statue a few times and then, in a gesture nei- 
ther playful nor violent, she toppled it out of 
the chair and onto the floor. It broke into sev- 
eral pieces, and to each piece she tied a balloon 
strong enough to lift the stone out the open 
kitchen window and into the sky. 

You can see how EMDR is like dreams, and 
yet again you can see how much it is like writ- 
ing. More than either of these, it is like a miracle, 
and the day we tied balloons to my mother was 
just one of many days when I could feel myself 
getting better, one of the days when the girls 
and I left the office on the same page. Anyone 
who deals in miracles knows that one often leads 
directly to another, and it wasn’t long before the 
next one. I’d be out in the real world, days or weeks 
from my last session, and 1 would find myself 
choosing the thing that would make me happy 
without forethought or hesitation, making the 
choice a whole person would make, without hav- 
ing to wrench my mind around 180 degrees. 

• 

Every writer knows that memory is a liar, that 
tmth is a sketchy thing that only exists in metaphor, 
when it exists at all. When my then-boyfriend 
wore my father’s clothes on the cruise, I knew it 
meant that eventually he would leave me. When 
I saw the particular curve of the lines under my 
new love’s eyes, I hoped it meant that he would 
not. When I saw my mother’s face turn to stone 
behind my closed eyes in Dr. L.’s office, I knew 
more about her than I ever did while she was 



living. This is a writer’s process, and I believe in it 
with everything 1 am. 

Until three years ago 1 had almost no memo- 
ries of my childhood. Now 1 have hundreds, but 
I’m afraid to say to anyone but Dr. L. what they 
are. I still can’t say I’m perfectly clear about how 
much of it all really happened. I understand that 
this is part of the way my sickness protects me. 
If I didn’t have denial in my childhood. Dr. L. 
has told me, I’d likely already be dead. 

One day after bringing to light a particularly bm- 
tal scene, I was shaking my head in disbelief and Dr. 
L. said. See if you aw uiuierstaiui this: whether or not it 
really haf^mted is less iiui’ortaitt that the fact that this is 
the way you reweutber it. Wtether or not this really hap- 
fvited has very little to do with whether or not it is true. 

Could I understand thisil thought, is he kiddingil 
thought of all the writing students over the years 
to whom 1 had said those exact words. I thought 
of how there couldn’t be two other sentences that 
more precisely described the place I live in my head. 

Dr. L. and 1 are well into our third year of work 
together, and our relationship continues to grow, 
though it has not always looked like a textbook 
case. He has been willing to see me at all hours, 
because of my erratic schedule (I think 6 a.m. Sun- 
day morning before I flew to Patagonia was the 
most generous), and he’s been understanding when 
I can see him three times in one week and then 
not at all for the next four. He’s come to my rescue 
by telephone many times: once in France when 
he talked me and seven of my writing students 
through a kind of intervention, because the eighth 
student stopped taking her medication and became 
dangerous to herself and to all of us; more than 
once ship-to-shore when things got dicey in the 
Panama Canal; and once from the downtown 
Denver Post Office, on the night the boyfriend 
who’d worn my father’s clothes broke up with me 
in the middle of a fifty-city publicity tour when I 
barely had enough energy in reserve to dial Dr. L.'s 
number. He compromised his boundaries once to go 
to a reading of mine at a local bookstore and that 
night gave me a rock from his office waterfall that 1 
still carry. And I may have compromised him further 
by dedicating the book I could never have written 
without our work to him. Several months after that, 
I was sitting in his waiting room and overheard him 
say he hoped I didn’t show up because he wanted to 
go running, and I almost snuck out forever without 
being seen, but he caught me with my hand on the 
door and turned the next two hours into maybe our 
finest session of all. He was the only person in my 
life who didn’t say it was too soon when I met the 
man with the soft and deep eyes. 

Above all, Dr. L. has shown me that I don’t 
have to be afraid of my sadness. He has shown 
me that every time I act on my own behalf it 
makes me feel good. He tells me that I have never 
been in a better position to feel worthy of an- 
other person’s love, and all but the very darkest 
places in me believe him. 1 have come to believe 
that he cares for me in a way that leaves me feel- 
ing nothing but safe and protected. I have come to 
believe that healing is impossible in the absence 
of that kind of love. 

I am fighting the urge now to write a sentence 
assuring you that Dr. L. gets something out of our 



relationship, too, that I regale him with stories that 
delight him, that I have such an astounding ratio 
of breakthroughs per visit that I make him feel like 
he’s made the right career choice, that our perfect- 
GRE-score minds link up so well that our sessions 
must at least sometimes be as much fun for him as 
they are for me. If Dr. L. were here, he would be 
quick to point out that this is one of the reasons 
I’m still in therapy, that I can’t simply accept 
somebody’s care and kindness without trying to 
balance the equation. He might also tell you that 
my need to perform for him, my need to find the 
right answer and get a gold therapy star, has kept 
our work, so far, from achieving all that it might. I 
have been more honest with Dr. L. than I ever have 
been with anyone, but I am still capable of lies of 
omission, I am still capable of trying to fool him 
with all the lies I tell myself. 

But really, if he were here, he likely wouldn’t 
tell you anything, because that’s the rule of con- 
fidentiality, a rule I feel I’ve broken, even though 
I’m not sure it does or should apply to me. I'm 
still very much in this process, too close to have 
any perspective, too invested not to be overpro- 
tective, and yet the need to honor it, to honor 
him, to honor myself and all the courage on ev- 
ery side this process requires, led me to believe 1 
should try to write this piece. 

When our therapeutic relationship ends, if it 
ends, I will no doubt write a better essay. It will be 
filled with the things that make an essay good, the 
elegance of retrospect, the stmctural confidence that 
comes with a broader view. This essay is haphaz- 
ard, bom of nothing but gratitude, for a man and a 
process that has allowed me to be so much more 
fuUy alive than I could have dreamed. 

The black waves are not gone entirely; they 
can still be called up when I feel particularly 
threatened, as they were just this morning, when 
I realized that for the first time since I’ve known 
my own history, I might be really, truly, deeply 
in love. I take solace in the hope that given all 
that Dr. L. has taught me, I am making what he 
would call f^roactive, self caring choices. I take so- 
lace in my newfound ability to distinguish the good 
relationships from the bad. More than any of this 
1 take solace in the fact that love is terrifying no 
matter how good the choices, and I am a whole 
enough person now to step into the bright light of 
that terror, to understand the potential for loss and 
to take the risk willingly, to know that straight 
through the terror is the only path to the joy. The 
lines under my lover’s eyes tell me that he knows all 
this and will soon show me more. I feel Dr. L. stand- 
ing behind me, nudging me gendy into the light. 

Pam Houston is the author of two collections of stories, 
Cowboys Are My Weakness and Waltzing the 
Cat (both Washington Sc]uare Press), and a memoir, 

A Little More about Me (WW Norton). She teaches 
at the Fine Arts Work Center each summer, and calls 
Provincetown her "second favorite fdace on earth. " 

This essay is from Tales from the Couch: Writers 
on the Talking Cure, edited by Jason Shinder and 
forthcoming in December 2000 from HariyrCollins. 
Ref’rinted by j^ermission. 



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PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 I PAGE 87 






CHRISTOPHER BUSA 






Eyeballing the Alie 



Tim McCarthy 



1 . Mr Nuclear Missile Technician 
His look is lean and hungry. Fit and quick, muscles 
bulging in a white T-shirt, veins in neck throbbing, 
he is a warrior poet pausing to discuss his mission. 
Above his right eye, a silver piercing looks like an 
eyebrow ready for plucking. His voice, fast and 
controlled, changes at will, becoming slow, quiet, 
loud — as needed to make his point. Sometimes his 
passion overtakes his pacing, and he suddenly 
brakes to whisper an essential thought. 

‘T was a nuclear missile technician in the Amry 
in Florida, part of the air defense artillery aimed at 
Cuba, using nuclear weapons designed to blow 
squadrons of planes out of the air. I'm a Cold War 
baby. The long and short of it is simply the logic of 
our world: it’s them or us. The same logic of the 
Cold War pemieated our medical system, because 
the mentality is inherent in our culture. But I don't 
believe our weapons beat the Soviets — it was our 



economy. And the body's economy is our immune 
system. It's not the vims! They want me to treat 
HIV like an enemy that must die. And, they say, I 
should kill it. Here diey offer me a recipe for mak- 
ing the self less strong, the enemy stronger. When 
you attack a life fomi. diose that survive are resistant 
to die attack. Looking at these odier life fomis, 1 real- 
ized 1 don't even digest my own food. E Coli does it. 
My cohabitant is a poison. So, common knowledge 
tells diat cohabitation is entirely possible. If you build 
vour immune system, you don’t have to die from 
HfV. You don't die from HfV anyway. You die from 
opportunistic infections that take advantage of your 
weakened immunity. So; bolster your immunity. 
Since 1 was twenty-one, 1 have taken huge amounts 
of vitamins. And, always, regular exercise.” 

In 1988. diagnosed with HFV, McCarthy was 
told his days were finite. But months stretched into 
a season. Seasons became the sinews of multiple 
years. At a certain moment, never having touched 
a video camera before, McCarthy was invited to a 
Radical Faerie gathering in Tennessee. He went out 
and bought a camera and made an agreement with 
himself. He would use the camera to record les- 
bian and gay activism and culture for himself in 



McCarthy set out to 
record a trip to 
Uganda, seeking 
both to experience 
something transcen- 
dental toward his 
own healing, and to 
visit the apparent 
origin of HIV. 



the present and for history in the future — “record- 
ing today as the past for tomorrow” as he says. He 
would provide no oversound, no lights, no scripts, 
no props. He would let what is, be — being, not 
becoming. Big difference, being is: since 1990, 
McCarthy has shot over 3,500 hours of video, 
documenting the worldwide 
community that is, by turn, help- 
ing him stay alive. He knows this 
reciprocity is important. 

Seven years ago McCarthy 
left Washington, D.C., where he 
was an entrepreneur 
in the computer 
software business, 
and bought a house 
in Provincetown. 

American physicians 
had given him six 
months to live, but they were 
failed witch doctors. It was only 
after he realized that he was 
surviving, living in fact, that 
McCarthy became angry with 
those who uttered his death 
sentence. He suspected his doctors 
were not happy that he failed to 
disappear as predicted. “My government cast a spell 
on me and told me I should die. They may not 
have created the virus, but they created the 
pandemic by the insolent idea that some portion 
of the population must die. That made the fire 
spread.” He recognizes the power of the “nocebo” 
effect, the opposite of the placebo effect — when 
death is prophesied, it will come. 

In the winter of 1998-99, McCarthy set out to 
record a trip to Uganda, seeking both to experi- 
ence something transcendental toward his own 
healing, and to visit the apparent origin of HFV. He 
uttered a prayer: “1 must go to Africa. It is danger- 
ous. I must go. May 1 return?” He got on a jet plane 
with Timothy XX Burton, writer and Radical Faerie, 
and Peter Lien, photographer and fellow fairy, and 
landed the next day near a lake in Kenya, close to 
the equator. In their first encounters with locals, 
through an interpreter, they “came out” as gay men, 
chamaing everyone but a homophobic African Catho- 
lic priest, who quoted the Bible to damn McCarthy. 



volcano. Robert Preston claims in his book. The 
Hot Zone, that the cave is the most biologically 
dangerous place on the planet. McCarthy climbs 
the steep path to the summit, walking through the 
powdery dried dung of bats and elephants. In view 
of tlae entrance to the cave, the audio of McCarthy’s 
camera picks up his heavy panting. One can almost 
hear the altered thumping of his heart, as his 
narration becomes rapid, terse, obliged to be as 
essential as a telegraph message. McCarthy is both 
exhausted and invigorated. After a long march he 
has reached the pinnacle into which he must now 
burrow. Here, closer to the sun, the sun doesn’t 
shine. Under the tropical colors and 
giddy noise of jungle, the cave waits, 
surely as lush as the mythical Garden 
of Eden. 

Walking through the cave, there 
is no sight, only the sound of water 
falling hard, echoing in the vast cham- 
ber. McCarthy trains his camera on the 
bit of light diat shines on his boots, as 
dtey sink into a cloud of dehydrated 
muck. TwiEght becomes darkness and 
dien comes the beating of the wings 
of thousands of bats. Now the light 
dims. McCarthy turns the lens on 
himself, and for five seconds he 
offers us this self-portrait: his eyes 
haunted and rapt, his ears pointed, 
alert to the sound of the camera 
functioning. Here, McCarthy’s 
personal quest is sewn into the fabric of the mythic, 
the way bats sew the night and day together. He en- 
ters the very spirit of his story, like a guest. 

3. Contemporary Garden of Eden, January 1999 
Six hundred miles west of Kitum Cave is Bwindi 
Impenetrable Forest, so-called for the density of 
its jungle. McCarthy believes the plague began here 
when it made the jump between species, from 
chimp to man. He was influenced by Lauri Garrett’s 
book. The Coining Plague, which won the Pulitzer 
Prize by tracing the steps that HFV took out of Af- 
rica. McCarthy came to understand that chimpan- 
zees passed Simian Immune Virus to humans, and 
the new strain became HIV. 

“We are in the zoo,” McCarthy says, as a family 
of gorillas surrounds him and the crew. “We are 



2. Into the Inferno 

McCarthy’s goal is to enter Kitum Cave. Two 
thousand feet above sea level, the hottest cave in 
Kenya, it bakes inside the oven of an extinct 



PAGE 88 I PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 




the alien species, being watched.” Birds chirp and 
the gorillas are silent, watchful. The small ones, 
ever hungry, move up and down trees, finding fruit 
to eat. Of twenty-eight gorillas, two are males. 
These enomrous gray Silverbacks are three cubic 
feet of solid muscle, with articulating limbs that 
extend like cranes at a metropolitan Big Dig. A 
guide keeps everyone calm, advising, “If a gorilla 
approaches, stay. Then, slowly, back away.” 
McCarthy knows it is less than useless to get angry 
at gorillas: “Their culpability is based on ignorance. 
They are in their language. We are in ours.” He 
was entranced by his first encounter with primates, 
and awed by the teeming life in the homeland of 
HfV. His pilgrimage proved, astonishingly, that 
successful ecosystems are self-balancing. They are 
based on cooperation, and not competition. 
Therefore they could be eyeballed without harm, 
and McCarthy survived. 

4. An Irony in Which Analogy Bleeds to Death 
A month later in Zanzibar, watching television in 
a hotel room, McCarthy records a British news- 
caster reporting on the kidnapping of tourists near 
the gorilla preserve they had just left. Several tour- 
ists were killed and survivors gave interviews. 
Sandra Thurman, Clinton’s AIDS ambassador to 
Africa, reminded us that there are over one mil- 
lion AIDS orphans in Uganda alone. 

McCarthy knew that people go to Kitum Cave 
and die seven days later, but he thought it was from 
disease, not bullets. Again, he was glad that he didn’t 
die. He wondered if he was somehow blessed. 



5. Provincetown 

Due to heavy fog or some other disaster (McCarthy 
does not remember), his plane to Provincetown is 
diverted to Hyannis. A friend, Mary Jo Paranzino, 
a songwriter with a beautiful voice, picks him up 
and drives him back to Provincetown. When they 
arrive, McCarthy gets in his van and drives alone 
through the streets, slowly, for an hour, playing a 
tape of Paranzino ’s song, called “Provincetown.” 
Her lyrics, in part: “Provincetown . . . where being 
different is not a shame.” 

McCarthy, committed to his role of “gay video 
historian,” is driven by knowing that “this is a time 
of firsts for my people.” His full-length documen- 
tary, Noceho = Witchcraft, shown at this year’s Prov- 
incetown International Film Festival, narrates his 
own first: going to Africa and returning, all the 
more alive, and in the company of friends. 



Christopher Biisa is the fomuier and editorial director 
of Provincetown Arts. 



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PAGE 90 I PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 





MOLLY HARDISON 



What to Make 
with Rotten Eggs 
(Since Iceland 
Grows No Lemons) 

W elcome to Iceland, a one-day layover on 
the cheapest flight to Europe. Only $369 
— there had to be a catch. Exiting the plane, 

1 stared in disbelief at three unattended infants in 
strollers. 1 wanted to wait by them until their idiot 
parents returned so that 1 might scold them, then 
thought better of it as 1 muttered from my Xeroxed 
Icelandic vocabulary (copied from Provincetown 
Library’s “when in” section) and realized 1 sounded 
like a Muppet, the Swedish chef Muppet. 

It was maybe a day later, standing in the Lon- 
don train station, that 1 became acutely aware of 
what I had done. I got a phone card and called 
Lori. 1 wanted to go home. I wanted to walk on 
the beach, look at the seals, drink hot chocolate, 
eat popcorn, and watch movies, anything really 
to be back home. At my house. The one where 
the heat is included. Three phone cards later and I 
knew. Wmt was I tliitikiitgi’To start my trip in Ice- 
land? As though the name itself wasn’t enough of 
a clue. 

And what about my hair — swathed like little 
baby Jesus in a purple fleece thing that I’m pretty 
sure is meant for your neck. 1 couldn’t get a comb 
through it, couldn’t get my fingers through it, 
couldn’t even get it unraveled from the top of my 
head. I’m not kidding. 

I had decided to see all that Iceland had to of- 
fer, besides Bjork, cultured dairy products, and an 
odd fascination with smelted fish. Oh, I couldn’t 
be stopped. What with paying roughly a hundred 
bucks for lunch — iceberg lettuce, weird shrimp 
crepe, and coffee {maybe I tifyj’cd too much . . . maybe 
I've been swindled by the overzealous bus driver, or the 
means-well youth hostel girl) — I set out to visit the 
Blue Lagoon. Something about Brooke Shields and 
brother-sister love kept poking me in my freshly 
dyed mahogany head (to ward off the Italians, not 
that it mattered, being that I fit their criteria of 
food-eater and air-breather). 

Nevertheless, I was bus-bound for “one of 
Iceland’s many natural wonders” — what a crock. 
The attendants (one of whom bore an uncanny 
resemblance to Ivana Trump), shooed me in the 
direction of the women’s locker room. It was the 
longest walk ever, second only to the walk out of 
there. Damp, it was very damp. I didn’t want to 
touch anything and I didn’t want anything to touch 
me. There I was, stark raving naked in the middle 
of an empty locker room, attempting to get my 
lucky Swim for Life bathing suit (the one with the 
skirt) over my winter hips, while trying to figure 
out how to get outside without touching the floor. 
Of course I had decided not to bring the flip flops 
that every travel guide suggested. Nope, if I brought 



them. I’d certainly not have had room for my ex- 
tensive belt buckle collection. God knows I 
couldn’t go anywhere without that, or without my 
scarves, in case I felt like dressing up. 

All I could think of now was my high school 
gym teacher trying to put the fear of God (North 
Garolina — not a problem) into us about the woes 
of athlete’s foot. “If left unattended it could spread 
up your leg and into your groin area; has been 
known to cause infertility in women and 
impotency in men.” No one was safe. I convinced 
myself that this place was teeming with more 
contagions than that monkey from the Outbreak 
movie. I hadn’t been this afraid of anything since 
second grade when the twins spread chicken pox 
and wiped out the entire class. We were 
quarantined, we were eight. I tried to reassure 
myself that this was just the sort of thing that Ice’s 
would enjoy — to frolic amongst the icebergs, to cut 
holes through eight feet of ice and swim, to perch 
themselves like seals on the frozen tundra. I now 
knew that the only reason that 1 was the only one 
standing naked amidst steel gray lockers was that 
everyone else was home procreating or reading, 
because they had more common sense than to go 
“swimming” in a hail storm. But not me. 

It was difficult to swim. The hail kept hitting 
the water and spraying the sulfuric (acid?) water 
in my eyes, and it stung. “You big baby,” I mut- 
tered to myself as I hid behind a man-made wall, a 
barrier between me and the elements. / could die 
out here and no one would notice. I could get hit in the 
head by a hail ball the size of a fist and be knocked 
unconscious in two feet of water, just because I'm too 
afraid to gut my feet down and touch whatever it is that 
lurks at the bottom of this cessgool. 

Then it hit me. They weren’t at home getting 
laid (despite the fact that they have the highest 
birthrate), they were at home because — fuck this — 
they could be! They knew better, and now I do 
too. After the most expensive fifteen minutes of 
my life I made my way back into the locker room. 
I was freezing, and although the sign recom- 
mended that I shower before I entered the Lagoon, 
showering after was my best decision yet. 1 slipped 
off my lucky Swim for Life bathing suit and stood 
there under the barely warm trickle of water, mum- 
bling some incoherent, stream-of-conscious hate rant 
while reading the “wall of precaution,” a veritable 
Est, in five languages, of things that you should and 
shouldn’t do at the Blue Lagoon. 

I should shower before I entered at my own risk. 

I should get out if 1 felt too hot or if I got dizzy. 

I should take precautions if I was pregnant or 
had heart problems. 

Nowhere did it say, “Please remove all jewelry 
before entering due to impending chemical reac- 
tions,” or “If you’ve recently had your hair done to 
ward off the Italians ...” (not that it mattered). I 
was finding it very difficult to get my fingers 
through my hair, and when 1 could, was alarmed 
at the amount that came out. Okay, okay, breathe. 

I turned off the water and got dressed as if in a 
trance, then made my way through the door and 
to the longest hall ever, without foreseeing the last 
problem I was about to face. Back at the youth 
hostel, I gathered my belongings, asked again for 



directions to the hotel where I was to catch my 
five a.m. airport shuttle, counted my Kronas, and 
realized that with the price of the shuttle, my din- 
ner was to consist of pretzels or an Icelandic ver- 
sion of Fig Newtons. I washed my pretzels down 
with the water fountain, then nearly choked to 
death on pretzel dust as I tipped the plastic pack- 
age and its contents into my mouth. 

1 decided that a warm shower would calm me 
down. I was ready to go to bed at six p.m., ready 
to end this nightmare. “1 fucking forgot to pack a 
towel,” I screamed, then dried off with my flannel 
pajamas. 

Just then I heard it, the sound of 200-plus 
schoolchildren ascending the stairs, fresh off a bus. 
1 stood there in disbelief, clutching my Aveda prod- 
ucts, and asked my suite mate what the hell was 
going on. Apparently they were from Sweden or 
Finland (whatever, they all look the same to me), 
and were on a field trip to “discover Iceland.” 
Whatever happened to going to the local fire sta- 
tion? If I was allowed to pet the Dalmatian or hit 
the siren I was happy, but never did we load up a 
plane and head out to another country, not even 
Canada. 

Things went from bad to worse as I realized 
that I’d left my lucky Swim for Life bathing suit 
back at the Blue Lagoon. Visions of Ivana pranc- 
ing around in my suit plagued me as my super- 
emollient, extra-luxurious, thirty-dollar conditioner 
refused to penetrate the nest that had formed on 
my head. It must just be the water, I told myself. I 
still reeked of rotten eggs. I knew that once I got 
to France, Mike would have some expensive con- 
ditioner that only fags in Paris knew about and that 
there was a secret handshake to even get. If noth- 
ing else, the water had to be better. They exported 
it for chrissakes. Evian — naive spelled backwards, 
and I don’t care. 

Molly Hardison's WOMR show, "Live Alien 
Broadcast, " (on which she occasionally refers to 
herself as the stigerhero NaiUime Kitty) is on every 
other Tuesday night. 




ICELAND'S FAMOUS BLUE LAGOON, AS PICTURED 
ON A TOURIST-TEMPTING WEBSITE 



PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 I PAGE 91 



KARIN COOK 



Flying with HorAed 



am the daughter of a navy jet-tumed-commer- 
f cial airline pilot — raised in a tough love school 
^ of travel with a corporate dress code and a “you 
pack it, you carry it" luggage limit. In the industry, 
I’m what's known as an “S3B” — which means that 
I fly stand-by behind almost everyone. First to check 
in, last to board, I was twenty-seven years old be- 
fore I ever held a boarding card with my name on 
it. In matters of aviation, I have been raised to be 
obedient and self-sufficient — an ideal traveler. 

On this Lufthansa Cargo flight, however, 1 have 
an actual reservation. And something about this 
enhanced status makes me want to break the rules. 
Behind the hangar of the cargo building at JFK In- 
ternational Airport, I risk our national security. I 
take photographs of the loading dock. I use my 
cell phone to call my father while standing under 
the plane. And. during my security clearance check. 

I tell a lie. 

I didn't mean to lie. Maybe it was all the men 
in unifomi or the weird combination of questions 
about my immigration status, drug and arrest his- 
tory, and animal husbandry skills. Animal hiis- 
I’lVhlrv shillsi' I panic. The customs officer slides 
me a form and points to the last question. It is 
virtually chemical, my desire to get on that plane. 
A molecular urge. “Yes," I lie, “1 know how to 
administer a tranquilizer." 

Cleared by customs for equine cargo travel on 
Lufthansa flight 1673, 1 head off across the asphalt 
apron toward the shipping vans at the far end of 
the lot. Somewhere between the hangar and the 
horse vans. I encounter a gassy mirage, an unset- 
tling runway vision with eerie waves of pavement 
and mercurial ponds wafting up at me. A wall of 
hay and shavings rises out of the concrete. The 
w'ind shifts, and suddenly, 1 am overwhelmed by 
the smell of horses mixing with fuel. A loud, gut- 
tural burst of whinnying comes from the bridge of 
an effulgent red and silver tractor trailer. Right 
away, I can tell that this one is trouble. 

I have been granted approval by the United 
States Equestrian Team (USET) to fly to Frankfort, 
Gemtany with seven of the team’s horses in the 
cargo area of a 747 aircraft. The horses waiting on 
die tractor trailer are fresh out of a 48-hour pre- 
export quarantine at the USET Headquarters in 
Gladstone, New Jersey. There is a steady stream 
of activity on the ground as the grooms cart 
wheelbarrows full of feed and hay into the metal 
luggage boxes. Horse people are not light packers 
and competing overseas means lugging a lot of 
equipment. Everything, from the blankets and the 
buckets to the tack trunks and the rakes, screams 
"USA" in red. white and blue. I’ve never seen so 
much patriotism in one place. These allegiant 
animals are flying off to Europe as part of a 
specially-funded tour offering America’s most 

PAGE 92 I PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 



promising equestrians a chance to gain 
international experience in preparation for the 
Olympics. This year's U.S. Developing Rider team 
is made up of five riders — all young women under 
the age of thirty. One of these women, Laura 
Bowery, is my childhood friend. 

• 

Laura and I grew up riding in die backyard bams 
of Long Island. Horses were everything, then. 
Riding was the most powerful way 1 
knew to occupy my own body. Be- 
fore I rode actual horses, 1 cantered 
on two legs up to jumps made of milk 
crates and branches. I was motion. 

All that wind, the heart-stopping leap 
in the air. Flight. The Girl Scout 
Handbook said that “no other form 
of transportation can give you the 
same feeling of companionship.” But 
as any horse-girl knows, riding it isn't 
about companionship; it’s one step 
beyond — identifying with the me- 
chanics of motion, becoming one 
with the horse. Even then, Laura was 
already part horse. She anticipated 
every move, knew when a horse was 
going to spook or buck, when it 
would stop in front of a jump. I was 
obsessed with the details — the ritu- 
als and order, the perfection of the 
equipment and the clothes. Laura 
wanted to win. 

Since then, our paths have 
diverged into writing and riding — 
each of us becoming one with our 
obsessions. Wlien 1 learned, last June, 
that Laura had qualified for the USET, 

I petitioned the headquarters to allow 
me to travel with the team and write 
about her first experience with 
international competition. In the 
thirteen years since I quit riding, Laura 
has secured a sponsor, incorporated her training 
fami, and in the last year, imported three world- 
class jumpers from Europe. I’ve recently become 
acquainted with these new personalities: the very 
consistent and beguiling Altesse du Boele, the 
charming people-pleaser. Sky Boy, and the 
powerful, eternally distracted Aiglefin. I will be 
accompanying Laura’s sister, Jenn, who manages 
the bam and has been charged with the immense 
responsibility of ensuring that these characters 
arrive safely in Frankfort. 

Jenn is not alone in her endeavor. William J. 
Barnes, a seventeen-year veteran of equine air 
transportation, brokers the entire operation, which 
consists of three crews of shipping and loading ex- 
perts on two continents. The Barnes Agency has 
shipped horses to almost every part of the world. 



serving some 400 equine passengers each year. 
Theoretically, a 747 can accommodate eighty- 
seven horses. The most Barnes has ever shipped 
on one plane is sixty-six. Barnes ships other ani- 
mals, too. “Obviously,” he tells me, “we never ship 
zoo animals and horses together. But baby chicks 
are a good match.” 

Barnes, an affable man with piercing blue eyes, 
has a lot to say about international border and 
quarantine policies both in the States and abroad. 



In particular, he is concerned that some of the 
European practices, such as the 30-day pre-export 
isolation period for horses seeking permanent 
residence in the European Gommunity (EG), act as 
a “restraint on trade.” I have to ask him to slow 
down and explain why it matters. The horse trade 
seems to flow mostly from Europe to the U.S., he 
tells me. The cost and inconvenience of the 
European-imposed isolation period (an additional 
$600 for boarding, plus USDA inspector fees at 
$65 an hour) make the exporting of American 
horses (even as pets) prohibitive. The U.S. imposes 
no such pre-export isolation period which 
encourages American riders to buy European 
horses. These European imports, or wamibloods, 
as they are called, are big and powerful and bred 
for jumping, in contrast to the quick, delicate 
thoroughbreds which, these days, are bred in 




PAINT-BY-NUMBERS BY THE AUTHOR 



America primarily for racing. In fact, at last year’s 
American Invitational (considered the Super Bowl 
of show jumping), the top thirty American riders 
were all riding European imports. For the purposes 
of competition, these USET horses will travel on a 
90-day temporary pass, thus foregoing tire isolation 
period. Still, there is a great deal of government 
bureaucracy on both ends to ensure that a variety 
of equine diseases are not transported across 
international borders. 

The USET requires that a veterinarian travel 
with the team when competing abroad. Back on 
the runway. Dr. Tim Ober stands at the base of 
the truck, collecting the health credentials and pass- 
ports for each horse. Yes, passports. They are dense 
with stamps. The international show jumping cir- 
cuit includes major Grand Prix competitions 
throughout the U.S., Mexico, Canada, Belgium, 
Gemrany, France, Hungary, the Netherlands and 
Brazil. This summer, the Olympic Games are to 
be held in Sydney, Australia. These horses have 
been more places than most people have. From 
here on, the passports will be kept centrally in or- 
der to respond quickly to official requests for docu- 
mentation. Each bears an illustrated diagram of a 
horse with individuating markings, whorls, scars 
or brands drawn in red ink. Dr. Ober flips through 
the thick, burgundy booklets, reviews the dates of 
import for each horse, and secures them in his brief- 
case. It is Dr. Ober’s first trip with the team. He is 
meticulous and relaxed, young and sunburned. Just 
before we begin loading, he pulls a tranq kit from 
his vet bag and slips it into his pants pocket. 

This is a jeans and chinos crowd. And though I 
am finally free of an aviation dress code, I find that, 
even in slacks and a button-down shirt, I manage 
to look overdressed. I watch as Jenn dips in and 
out of the tractor trailer, diligently preparing hay 
nets and buckets. She is a career horsewoman, 
unable to stand still, always anticipating. For this 
tour, she has packed ninety baggies-full of horse 
electrolytes, and thirteen pairs of Levi’s. I put a 
cuff in my slacks and follow her up a large ramp to 
the top level of the tractor trailer, where the 
troublemaker stands alone. 

• 

Aiglefin, known as Alfie around the barn, is an 
eight-year-old Selle Francais stallion. He is big, even 
by European standards. From the ground to his 
withers, at four inches to a hand, he measures 16.3. 
The top of my head barely reaches his shoulder. It 
isn’t his height, however, that’s most impressive; 
it's his heft. A thick muscle of a horse, Alfie carries 
his giant head high. A white star, the shape of 
Martha’s Vineyard, appears just above and between 
his dark glassy eyes. His veins are a road map of 
attitude and anticipation, bulging in sharp relief off 
his hairless face and crawling out from under the 
fleece-covered shipping halter. Jenn tells me that he 
has sweated off his facial hair, working himself into 
an excited lather every time he leaves his stall. As a 
result, his face appears darker and shinier than the 
rest of his brown body, his every expression inten- 
sified by a flash of wet skin and muscle. 

Stallions are, by their very nature, more diffi- 
cult to handle than mares or geldings. Above all 
else, the instinct of a stallion is to breed. People 
who work around them are always doing math. 



dividing up space and splitting distance to keep them 
as far away from mares as possible. The accompa- 
nying mares on this trip are regulated with Depo 
Provera to keep them from coming into season. Still, 
travel seems to have raised tlris stallion’s level of 
expectation, unearthing a blind and ferocious will. 

When Alfie announces himself again, this time 
at close range, the depth of his bellow stops me in 
my tracks. He lifts one bandaged leg and with his 
rubber-booted hoof, strikes at the ground repeat- 
edly, until the truck gives way to rocking. He flares 
his nostrils, revealing a shock of red membrane. 
“Ea-sy,” Jenn soothes and moves toward him, 
grasping his halter with one hand and reaching up 
with the other to swipe a glob of Vick’s Vapo-Rub 
into each nostril. He yields for a moment, drop- 
ping his head slightly. “What’s the matter, Alf?” 
she teases, “Can’t smell the girls?” She turns to- 
ward me, a quick look of concern crossing her face. 
Wou don’t have your period, do you?” 

Alfie is big, loud and homy — a lousy combina- 
tion in any airline passenger. In the world of equine 
transportation, he is what’s called a “bad shipper.” 
On the ground and in the air, he requires special 
handling. Alfie will be flying first class to Frank- 
fort. First class, cargo style, means that for $6,200, 
he gets the jet stall to himself. When it comes time 
to load, Alfie is led from the truck through a 
wooden-plank chute into a metal crate lined with 
rubber mats, and secured with rope ties on either 
side of his halter. The loading ramp folds up to be- 
come the back wall and hinges shut with metal pins. 
Up front, there is a small area with water buckets, a 
hay net, a jump seat for a human escort and enough 
room to tend to the horse during the flight. 

• 

It is only 8:00 a.m., but already the heat en- 
gulfs us — the pavement and metal a magnet for 
sun. Alfie’s crate is wheeled off toward the hangar 
so he can cool off and get weighed. In the dis- 
tance, all I can see are his ears. It takes less than an 
hour to load the remaining six horses into their jet 
stalls. When Alfie resurfaces, there is an enormous 
manila tag wired to the door of his crate. He weighs 
1,965 kilograms, almost as much Sky Boy and 
Altesse combined. 

The crates enter the plane through a side en- 
trance toward the back of the aircraft. The door 
opens up, arching wide above the cavity, a gaping 
mouth with a 40-foot hydraulic lift at the base. 
On the tail of the plane is a blue gesture of a bird 
on a yellow sun. Lufthansa Cargo. The crates rise 
slowly in the air and vanish into the cabin. “Guess 
where I am. Dad?” 1 shout into my cell phone over 
the loud cranks and bangs of pre-flight checks. It 
is the first time I have really been here, in the bow- 
els of an airport, the place where he has spent the 
last thirty years. I want to reach across the ages 
and join him, make up for all the distance, bond 
somehow. My father demands to know my exact 
location. “On the runway,” is all I can offer, before 
he becomes official, citing the dangers of cellular 
disruption. Dial tone. Then he is gone. 

I board at the front of the plane, up an out- 
door carriage of stairs connected just under and 
to the left of Lufthansa’s giant blue L. It’s raw 
inside, the kind of raw you find in warehouses or 
homes under construction. The gray fiberglass 



floors are sliced with vertical metal tracks. All four 
crates are pushed together, one behind the other, 
like mini railroad cars. AJfie’s crate is parked up 
front, just under the hump of the upstairs cabin 
and cockpit; the mares bring up the rear. 

There is no one to greet me, no check-in or 
boarding card required. It feels oddly informal. Out 
of habit, I begin to impose my own bureaucracy 
and realize with a start that my passport is packed 
in my luggage which has been stashed on the other 
side of the wooden divider inside Alfie’s crate. Once 
his escort disembarks, I steal around to the sliding 
door at the side of the crate. I hip-check the latch to 
release it, and slip inside. The crate smells sweet 
and earthy, a mix of green hay, wood shavings and 
horse hair. Alfie gives me a sideways glance, 
twitches once or twice, and continues on with his 
breakfast. As I duck under his head and reach around 
for my duffel, he shakes the hay net, hard, releasing 
a cascade of alfalfa down my shirt. I have to frisk 
myself to get rid of the bent stalks of hay lodged in 
my bra and in the waistband of my slacks. 

A steep, ten-step metal ladder leads to the pas- 
senger area on the upper deck. I’m surprised to 
discover that, at least for take-off and landing, I 
too, am flying first class. A glass of orange juice 
waits on the arm tray of my cushy leather seat. It 
takes two hours to load the rest of the cargo. My 
skin itches from the hay. To keep myself from 
scratching, I stare out the window at the 
overstuffed pallets of other cargo, covered in plas- 
tic and secured with vast nets of rope, as they make 
their way onto the plane. I am intimately ac- 
quainted with the gravitational pull between 
horses and humans. But, there is nothing familiar 
about the inside of a cargo plane or the strange 
convergence of horses, cars, chemicals and base- 
ball shirts — all around me — contained in this single 
gleaming fuselage of faith and flight. 

• 

Lufthansa supplies a steward for any cargo flight 
with over four passengers. There are six of us on 
this flight: the vet, three grooms, myself, and a cou- 
rier from the Guggenheim Museum in New York. 
She arrived the night before with two paintings 
bound for a big show in Munich. She looks battle- 
weary. “They’ve been bumping cargo all morning,” 
she offers. “Live things always take priority.” 

“Are your paintings valuable?” Jenn asks. 

The courier's response is deliberately coy. “The 
museum’s insurance policy mandates that a mu- 
seum representative accompany any fine art val- 
ued over a million dollars.” 

Jenn nudges her fellow grooms. “Same here,” 
she gloats. 

Just before take-off, the steward holds up two 
portable oxygen tanks and instructs us to strap 
them to our bodies while in the cargo area, in case 
of decompression. It’s 10:40 a.m. I hold my breath 
as we all lurch into the air. Over the roar of the 
engines, I hear Alfie again. He has something to 
declare. I close my eyes and bend my head. Not 
prayer, merely appreciation. 

There is something so meditative about this 
climb. The suspended present tense of flight. A 
feeling of freedom and relief always comes over 

PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 I PAGE 93 



me, not for making it into the air, but because for 
the duration of the flight, I am not expected to be 
anywhere else. How often I have borrowed this 
time to reinvent myself, imagine my life anew. I 
never set my watch ahead, never anticipate what’s 
happening there, now. I like the simplicity of the 
equation. Day lost, distance gained. 1 recline. The 
clouds are layered, a latte sky. 

In the early, romantic days of airplane travel, 
my father flew for Pan Am. For over twenty years, 
that big blue ball was everywhere in our lives, on 
tee shirts, cocktail glasses, our coffee table. It rep- 
resented what was adventurous and sophisticated 
about the world. It was what we had to look at 
when our father was gone. After returning home 
from a trip, he once presented my sister and me 
with miniature stewardess outfits. Periwinkle blue 
jumpers over white blouses. White stockings with 
white patent leather shoes. A round bowler hat, 
with little plastic combs inside. I imagined it meant 
I could join him. Instead, we became little logos — 
trotted out for public relations events, photo op- 
portunities involving the FAA and their battles over 
deregulation and international access. I hated dis- 
covering that there were rights to air, that the sky 
could be owned. 1 was four. I still have that hat, 
my little hope. 

When Pan Am went under. 1 was in college. It 
was like a death in our family. Suddenly, the globe 
was just gone. I remember hearing that flight at- 
tendants with twenty years of experience were be- 
ing hired to work at a coffee shop on the comer of 
Ninth Avenue and 19th Street in New York City. 
My father was lucky enough to get a job with an- 
other airline. And though he had been poised for a 
captain's seat on Pan Am, his seniority was sacri- 
ficed in the buyout, leaving him to sit in the third 
seat, his view all lights and weather. When my 
father retires, at the end of the month, he will do 
so without the runway celebration afforded a cap- 
tain. Instead, when it's over, he will pack up his 
flight bag full of engineer's manuals and step off 
the plane as he has nearly every other day for the 
last thirty years. No firetrucks, no ceremony. 

I wonder if he will really ever be finished with 
flying. 

• 

As soon as our altitude levels out. 1 unfasten 
my seatbelt and wrestle with the oxygen tank. I 
can't wait to get to the horses. I ease myself down 
the ladder and my tank pitches forward, nearly 
taking me with it, a 14-foot drop into the cargo 
area. 1 feel as if I've broken in somewhere. It’s cold 
and loud down here, no carpet or seats or luggage 
bins to insulate the cabin from the machinery 
churning all around it. I walk down a small aisle, 
my elbows brushing against the crates on one side 
and the wall of the plane on the other. The oxy- 
gen tank clangs with each step. The horses seem 
calm, encapsulated in their dark dens, the kind of 
private quiet you find in a bam late at night, only 
we re at 30,000 feet. Dr. Ober says that horses 
don't experience pressurization in their ear canals 
the way humans do. Still, AJtesse is on to us. She 
sways anxiously from side to side, bobbing in the 



PAGE 94 PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 



dark cavity of her stall. She is lathered with sweat. 
She won’t drink. She knows something is up. 

Alfie on the other hand, takes a long, deep sip, 
holds it until I move the bucket and then releases 
it down my pant leg. He shakes his head madly, 
demanding more. 1 try again, and meet the same 
end. Drenched and demoralized, I move on to Sky 
Boy. He is gentle and appreciative; he likes a good 
mb. I mn my hand under his mane and scratch 
the crest of his neck. I press my lips hard against 
the pink splotch at the center of his muzzle. He 
leans into my attention, his snotty nose mnning 
onto my ami. This is what 1 miss most; myself, in 
relation to horses. All flesh and pulse and breath. 
Open, big-hearted. Unafraid. 

My last horse show was in August of 1986. In 
the division in which 1 competed, riders under tlie 
age of eighteen had to win four classes within a sea- 
son to qualify for tlie national finals. 1 did not qualify. 
That is a hard sentence to write watlrout the flood of 
justification mshing up to join it. A borrowed horse, 
chronic lameness, the surgeries, the money. Eques- 
trians witli greater means “chased" blue ribbons, 
crossing state lines to compete up and down the East 
Coast every weekend. My last junior year, 1 watched 
tire weeks slip away, one competition at a time. Ev- 
ery day, a countdown to the inevitable. 

• 

For the rest of the seven-hour flight, 1 remain 
down here in the cargo area of the plane. I offer 
the horses water and treats, and get to know them 
a bit. Somewhere over the Atlantic, gravity begins 
to make sense, as does metric conversion, and 
other difficult matters. At some point, I hear the 
sounds of dinner being served above me. I give each 
horse a carrot and leave them to their rhythmic 
chewing. The steward hands me down a tray and 
tells me I can stay. The only place to sit is on tire 
metal box that holds the emergency raft. The exit 
door, with its tempting red handle, looms to my 
right. I lift the lid on my tray. Chicken breast and 
arugula nested on hand-painted china. Miniature 
salt and pepper shakers. Walnut mousse parfait. The 
food is first class; the decor, pure storage room. Alfie 
sits across from me, his eyes glinting out from the 
top of the crate. The box is cold underneath me, 
die tray, wami on my lap. The whole thing feels 
unfamiliar and oddly erotic, like a blind date. 

When I dream about riding. I’m always run- 
ning late, always missing something — a boot, the 
collar to my shirt. Sometimes I dream there is a 
horse 1 have forgotten about, neglected for years. 
In truth, everything is ready to go, hanging in the 
closet, just as it did thirteen years ago. The elegant 
herringbone jackets, polished leather field boots, a 
braided riding crop, my black velvet helmet. A week 
after my last horse show, I went away to college. 
Horses were replaced, I thought, by a life of the 
mind. Still, 1 miss the intimacy of being good at 
something physical. I read somewhere recently that 
failure offers an opportunity to make something of 
the fragments. I didn’t retire; I just stopped. Maybe 
that’s what’s so hard. Cradled in the beOy of this 
bird, I come face to face with my own failed aspira- 
tions. The heartbreak of horses. What it means to 
leave something you love and never look back. 

When we land, the German customs officer 
comes right onto the plane. He pays more attention 



to the horses’ passports than to ours and then tells 
us that the only way off is down — with the horses. 

1 step into the closest crate and, as luck would have 
it, become an escort to the only horse that needs a 
tranquilizer. 

For all of Alfie’s threats, it is Altesse who has 
the most difficult time. She is a silent worrier, a 
ball of anxiety, who has worked herself into a 
frenzy. In truth, even if I had a tranquilizer and 
could administer it, it is already too late. Men in 
reflector jackets move the caravan of horses along 
electronically at the same speed used for the in- 
animate objects that were deplaned ahead of us. 
The cylinders ripple the ground underfoot in a roll- 
ing earthquake motion. I look to Dr. Ober for help, 
but he is suspended in the air on the lift with Sky 
Boy waiting to be lowered to the ground. Altesse’s 
eyes are bulging so far out of her head, she looks ; 
like a reptile. The only tools I have at my disposal 
are my hands and voice. 1 coo at her, not words 
exactly, but reassuring sounds. I grab hold of her 
halter and attempt to steady her as 1 am lurched 
from one side of the crate to the other. 1 glance at 
the jump seat and notice, just as we reach solid 
ground, that it is equipped with a seat belt. Our 
passage is complete. 

The Gemran cargo crew seems to resent our 
midnight arrival. Once on the runway, they hook \ 
all four crates together and drive us around the 
airport at warp speed for forty-five minutes be- 
fore delivering us to the animal hotel. In a sterile i 
building distinguished by huge blocks of cement 
and rows of drains, we check their temperatures 
and bed them down for the night. As we leave, an 
attendant hits a switch and a mechanical wall low- 
ers in front of Alfie 's stall. The next morning, the 
“border witches,” as they like to call themselves, 
bar us from the health check. Our departure is de- 
layed as the customs officials examine each horse's 
credentials to ensure that no “horse-swapping” has 
taken place. Fed, bandaged, and only slightly 
rested, these American athletes board two English 
lorries and head off to France. 

As a team, the USET Developing Riders will 
hear the national anthem more than once, win- 
ning the Nation’s Cup in Falsterbo, Sweden, in 
Budapest, Hungary and placing second in Lummen, 
Belgium. Altesse du Boele will make three clean 
rounds in Geesteren, the Netherlands, and become 
the third fastest horse to go through the finish 
markers that day. Alfie will persist, in grand stal- 
lion-style, shocking himself on a live wire as he 
attempts to climb the back wall of his stall. He’ll 
even go so far as to buck Laura off while training 
near a breeding farm in Erance. But he makes up 
for his randy behavior in the end — as Laura be- 
comes the only American, the only woman and 
the youngest rider to win a ribbon in this year’s 
Derby at Lummen. 

And I fly back to New York. Stand-by. An S3B 
for the very last time. 

Karin Cook is the author of What Girls Learn 
(Vintage), which is now in its ninth I’rinting. She lives 
in New York ami Provincetown ami is at work on a 
new novel, Sweat, ahotit horses, contagion and 
quarantine. 



Qelebrating a Life in Poetry 
Happy Birthday, Stanley Kunitz 



^ ... — 

Passing Through 



THE LATER POEMS 




Stanley Kunitz 



Passing Through 






THE 



TUB LATBR POBMS, 
NHW AND SELBCTHD 

National Book Award Winner 



Collected 

Poems 



The Collected 
Poems 



At bookstores this Fall 




ItZ 



Wherever books are sold 



NORTON S Independent publishers since I 923 



w w w. w v\Ti o r t o n . c o m 



The Pollock-Krasner Foundation, Inc. 

Announces its ongoing Grant Program, which provides financial assistance to individual, 
professional visual artists. The Foundation welcomes, throughout the year, applications from 
painters, sculptors and artists who work on paper, including printmakers. There are no deadlines. 

The Foundation will not accept applications from commercial artists, photographers, video artists, 
performance artists, filmmakers, crafts-makers or any artist whose work primarily falls into these 
categories. The Foundation does not make grants to students or fund academic study. 

Artists interested in obtaining forms and information may download the application from our 
web site at www.pkforg or may write, fax or e-mail their complete mailing address to: 

The Pollock-Krasner Foundation, Inc. 

863 Park Avenue 
New York, NY 10021 

Fax: (212) 288-2836 
E-mail: grants@pkf.org 



PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 i PAGE 95 







EDITED BY JASON SHINDER 



Favorite Lines ot Poetn by Stanley Kunitz Chosen by His Friends 

on the Occasions of 

his 95th Birthday and the Publication of 

The Collected Poems'^ 



We learn, as the thread plays out, that we belong 
Less to what flatters us than to what scars. 

— from “The Dark and the Fair" 
chosen by Fuse Asher 



Energy is the only life ... Energy is eternal delight 

— William Blake, from “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell” 

"I suppose that above all what I've learned is that the imagination is 
a portion of the divine principle, that energy is eternal delight and 
that everything that lives is holy." 

— Stanley Kunitz, from “Stanley Kunitz on William Blake: 

A Conversation with Jason Shinder” 



* Stanley Kunitz’s The Collected Poems will be published 
by WW Norton & Company, Inc. in October 2000. 
Poetry reprinted with permission of the publisher. 




Desire, desire, desire. 

The longing for the dance 
stirs in the buried life. 

— from “Touch Me” 
chosen by Linda Pastan 

But what spnng-blooded stock 
Sprouts deathless violets in the skull 
That, pawing on the hard and bitter rock 
Of reason, make thinking beautiful? 

— from “Approach of Autumn” 
chosen by Robert Hass 

The sands whispered. Be separate, 
the stones taught me. Be hard. 

I dance, for the joy of surviving, 
on the edge of the road. 

— from “An Old Cracked Tune” 

chosen by Anne-Marie Levine, by Robert Jay Lifton, and by 
Stephen Berg, who notes: “A mere four lines! 1 think this quatrain 
hit me again because of its adamant self-definition, its power to call 
up my own failure to be equally sure of where I stand. For his 
reminder of that quandary and for the profoundly humane music of 
his poems, for his generosity and inspiring, heroic belief that poetry 
is essential to our lives, 1 will always be grateful to Stanley.” 

I'm the boy in the white flannel gown 
sprawled on this coarse gravel bed 
searching the starry sky, 
waiting for the world to end. 

— from “Halley’s Comet” 

chosen by Euse Paschen and by Gerald Stern 

Some must break 

Upon the wheel of love, but not the strange. 

The secret lords, whom only death can change. 

— from “Lovers Relentlessly” 

chosen by Joyce Carol Oates, who notes: “The Wheel of Love is the 
title of my first collection of stories, published in 1970.” 

I wept for my youth, sweet passionate young thought, 

And cozy women dead that by my side 
Once lay: I wept with bitter longing, not 
Remembering how in my youth I cried. 

— from “I Dreamed That I Was Old” 

chosen by Hugh Seidman and by Frank X. Caspar, who notes: 

“Oh, to have written that!” 



What do we know 

beyond the rapture and the dread? 

— from “The Abduction” 
chosen by Lucie Brock-Broido 

The hinges groan: a rush of forms 
Shivers my name, wrenched out of me. 

I stand on the terrible threshold, and I see 
The end and the beginning in each other's arms. 

— from “Open the Gates” 
chosen by Joshua Weiner 

I walk obscurely in a cloud of dark: 

Yea, when I kneeled, the dark kneeled down with me. 

— from “The Guilty Man” 

chosen by Stanley Moss, who notes: “Here are two lines written 
by Stanley Kunitz that should make it clear to God that his highest 
expectations for the human race were not groundless.” 

As if it didn't matter 
which way was home; 
as if he didn't know 
he loved the earth so much 
he wanted to stay forever. 

— from “The Long Boat” 
chosen by Sophie Cabot Black 



Time swings her burning hands. 
The blossom is the fruit. 

And where I walk, the leaves 
Lie level with the root. 

— from “The Way Down” 
chosen by Dore Ashton 

I can scarcely wait till tomorrow 
when a new life begins for me, 
as It does each day, 
as it does each day. 

— from “The Round” 
chosen by Lucille Clifton 



Great events are about to happen. 

— from “Day of Foreboding” 
chosen by Melanie Braverman 



PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 I PAGE 97 



Bolt upright in nny bed that night 
I saw my father flying; 
the wind was walking on my neck, 
the windowpanes were crying. 

— from “Three Floors" 

chosen by Richard Wilbur, who notes: “For dear Stanley, who has never 
settled for the good-enough that spoils the world, and who can write 
with power in a Mother Goose stanza.” 



Peace! Peace! 

To be rocked by the Infinite! 

As if it didn't matter 
which way was home 

— from “The Long Boat" 

chosen by Maxini Kumin, who notes: “I see these lines as the fulcrum of the 
poem, the turning point we must all approach, it is to be hoped, with the 
same equanimity as Stanley.” 



0 teach me how to work and keep me kind. 

— from “Father and Son” 
chosen by Jason Shinder 

She wept, she railed, she spurned the meat 
Men toss into the muslin cage 
To make their spineless doxy bleat 
For pleasure and for patronage 

— from “She Wept, She Railed" 
chosen by D.aniei H.aipern 

In a murderous time 

the heart breaks and breaks 
and lives by breaking. 

It IS necessary to go 

through dark and deeper dark 
and not to turn. 

— from “The Testing-Tree" 
chosen by M,\rie Howe 

In a murderous time 

the heart breaks and breaks 
and lives by breaking. 

— from “The Testing-Tree" 
chosen by GiEorAiTCA Mailiis 

It IS necessary to go 

through dark and deeper dark 
and not to turn. 

— from “The Testing-Tree" 
chosen by 1 ’eier D.auson 

What do I want of my life? 

More! More! 

— from “Journal for My Daughter" 
chosen by B.ll. Friedman 

Sufficient unto each poet are his own disasters. ... Conservation of 
energy is the function of form . ... Art withers without fellowship. . . . 
The supreme morality of art is to endure. 

— selected from various essays and interviews in A Kiiiil of Order, 
■ t Kuui of Folly and Ncxt-to-Last Things 
chosen by Roger Skillings 



What makes the engine go? 

Desire, desire, desire. 

— from “Touch Me” 
chosen by Gaii. Mazur 

At my touch the wild 
braid of creation 
trembles. 

— from “The Snakes of September" 
chosen by Rose Slivka 

Live in the layers 
not on the litter. 

— from “TTie Layers” 

chosen by John Skoyles, who notes: “These lines made immeditate sense to 
me, serving as a guidepost, and as a reminder to keep focused on the main 
thing, not on the stuff that surrounds it.” 

"Rover!" I call my fourfoot home. 

Whose only language is a growl; 

Dig up old bones, but he won't come 
That chose the world: it is more foul." 

— from “Rover” 
chosen by Steven Bauer 

Arg! I am sometimes weary 
Of this everlasting search 
For the drama in a nutshell, 

The opera of the tragic sense 

— from “Revolving Meditation” 
chosen by Peter Klappert 

Be what you are. Give 
what is yours to give. 

Have style. Dare. 

— from “Journal for My Daughter” 

chosen by Christopher Busa and by Betty Jean Lifton, who notes: “1 ended 
my hook Jonniev of the Ailoi’tcil Self A Quest for W'hokness with these lines.” 

nothing is truly mine 
except my name. I only 
borrowed this dust. 

— from “Passing Through” 
chosen by Eve Grubin 



Let's jump into the car, honey, 
and head straight for the Cape 

— from “Route Six” 

chosen by Olga Broumas and by Cynthia Huntington and Beri 
Yarborough, who note, “Every time we leave Hanover to drive 
to the Cape one of us quotes these lines and tries to sound like 
Stanley, though we don't.” 

Your turn. Grass of confusion. 

You say you had a father once: 
his name was absence. 

— from “Journal for My Daughter” 

chosen by Liam Rector, who notes: “It has never been easy to be 
a father, and in this time of transition for men and women 1 
think it has been expecially difficult. Stanley Kunitz’s poems have 
fathered us all and, in a way most of us would never have thought 
possible, so has he.” 

Pet, spitfire, blue-eyed pony, 
here is a new note 
I want to pin on your door 

— from “After the Last Dynasty” 

chosen by Liz Rosenberg, who notes: “Back when 1 was in high 
school, David (who 1 later married) gave me me a copy of this 
poem, typed, and told me he had written it. My mom found it 
tucked behind my bed and asked me, ‘Liz, who wrote this poem?' 
I told her that David had. She looked at me strangely for a 
moment and then said, ‘Well, he's a very good poet. A very, very 
good poet.’” 

The word I spoke in anger 
weighs less than a parsley seed, 
but a road runs through it 
that leads to my grave 

— from “The Quarrel” 

chosen by Renate Ponsold Motherwell 

Liebchen, 

with whom should I quarrel 
except in the hiss of love, 
that harsh, irregular flame? 

— from “The Quarrel” 
chosen by Tess Gallagher 

The thing that eats the heart is mostly heart. 

— from “The Thing That Eats the Heart” 

chosen by Susan Mitchell, who notes: “This line has come back 

to me, always in Stanley's voice, at crucial moments in my life. 1 

love the line for its wisdom, its insight into what it means to be 

human.” 

I caught the cold flash of the blue 
unappeaseable sky. 

— from “Robin Redbreast” 
chosen by Maura Stanton 



Blue poured into summer blue, 

A hawk broke from his cloudless tower. 

The roof of the silo blazed, and I knew 
That part of my life was over. 

— from “End of Summer” 

chosen by Keith Althaus, who notes: “I like these lines not 
only for their elegiac beauty, but because they capture a rare 
moment of demarcation, when you suddenly realize that what 
has gone before is done, whether a relationship to a place, a 
person, or a way of life. It is both fateful and liberating.” 

Last year my neighbor's dog, 
a full-grown Labrador retriever, 
chased a grizzly old codger 
into the tidal basin, 
where shaggy arms reached up 
from the ooze to embrace him, 
dragging his muzzle under 
until at length he drowned. 

— from “Racoon journal” 

chosen by C.K. Williams, who notes: “These lines have always 
struck me as ones embodying as chilling a statement about the 
mystery and horror and inevitability of death as any 1 know. 
Its blend of the impersonal, the mythic, and the sensual are 
astonishing.” 

This is my country, where the tireless feet 
Of my adventure, homing, will return. 

Each day will end in this day; every ship 
Will bring me back, bright lip on lonely lip. 

— from “Parting” 
chosen by Hilary Masters 

What makes the engine go? 

Desire, desire, desire. 

The longing for the dance 
stirs in the buried life. 

One season only, 

and It's done. 

— from “Touch Me” 
chosen by Dorothy Antczak 

I am not done with my changes. 

— from “The Layers” 

chosen by Grace Schulman and by Carol Houck Smith 



"Etenml Delight" is jmri of a larger imhlication in f’rogress am! a 
I’rojmed series of similar jmhlicatioits regarding select poets, edited 
by Jason Shinder. 



PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 I PAGE 99 



P'town Proud 




PHOTOGRAPHS BY 

MISCHA RICHTER 



PAGE 100 I PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 










'' ' / 
/ / / 




rK \ ^ 











MISCHA RICHTER grew up in Provincetown, where his family roots go back to 1624. 

He has lived in London since 1993, and his photographs have appeared in European magazines including 
The Face, Sleaze Nation, Creative Review, and Addict, and in a book called Paradise. To all who posed for 
P’town Proud — Max Beal, Brooklyn Gamsey, Dimitri Kennedy-Koveiro, Jamie Martin, 

Zach Shelby Mellert, Ryan Moody, Jordy Parker, Andrew Rowell, and Cody Silva — he says, 
“Thank you for reminding me where 1 come from.” 



PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 I PAGE 103 











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1fh»n Claude and her two best friends decide to go out, they always meet 
at Claude ' s house . While Claude makes reservations or finishes her 
nails, her friends go up to Claude's room. There, they take off all 
their clothes exr*?pt for their underwear. Then they reach into their 
Coach bags and puj.1 out sausage-like multi-colored fabric ttabes stuffed 
with plastic grocery bags and tied at both ends with some pretty 
ribbons . They call thosn their "enhancers . " 

One best friend likes to tie two enhancers arovmd her slender waist, 
and bunch the plastic bags so they balloon out around her butt. The 
other best friend plun 5 >s the bags around her hip bones to give herself 
child-bearing hips. They both make sure to pad their stomachs to the 
point where people sometimes ask if they are pregnant. They like to 
preen in front of Claude's mirror, trying to figure out if there's 
anyplace else they can pa^f!^The first best friend, an entrepreneur, is 
trying to figure out how to make an enhancer that will give her a 
double chin. 




When Claude calls out it's time to go, they giggle and squeeze 
themselves back into their clothes. They stop in front of the mirror 
one last time, admire the pull and bunch of the once loose fabric over 
their enhanced bodies . Then they run downstairs and everyone piles into 
Claude ' s car for the drive to the restaurant or the movie . 



r 








I am lying in 
the small 
opening under a 
eucalyptus 
tree. The earth 
walls have 
collapsed 
around me. I 
cannot breathe 
and there is no 
one around me 
to hear a cry, 
so I save my 
breath. The 
gentti legs of 
ilers are 
ig over 
and 
y shirt 
cannot 
. They 
hat I 
e 



~ falling^ apart 
and I can smell 
dry rot, 
something I 
should have 
noticed before 
entering this 
warren , but did 
not. And now, it 
is more than 
just the smell 
of wet soil and 
wood, there is 
also the smell 
beetle dung , 
sweet and in its 
own way, clean . 
There are tree 
lice here, 
mites, fungi 
and though I am 
not their 
natural host I 
know that they 
will not object 
to me either. 
There are no 
sounds here 
other th 
ec 

heart a - 
o c c a 3 ! ■ 



re^d i^nd 



^ k.a.tT€rd^ 
J^a,C€r IV- fit 
closerd 0.7^ 



PS 

nsc-tHT^PcL, hotk. 



iHtionscT^ 



r€TVO Ih 

Ser€rkj>^ PtS 

H rs,Jv Ids^ 
a.}^lcs^ PH. 
re^onser to 
cortdptpoK-j 
pts creation 



r^pd, 

tr€:CtSY€r. 



sounds 
eucalyp b 
core c r u m. D i t 







terms trom PoMo Ape ’s Criti^l a 



> Poetic Terms 



Protoflesh’.Tim skin growth after ft)il ftnd Ch tCkcn fat bums 

the index finger indicates a vaeard: an unegotiabfe'nle..^^ tlte ‘'otbers^ tS ^^iion 
will attempt to be like those who, ultmiat|^,^a£e Aeitii Cations Si®ing i(^* 
first persons, it usually imagiDes «.hat it mustbe fiko to be a plt^r liater. ahreede^W !i'f . 



antique, a 



slave trader 






. and/or a biter. 



Mecca ; All imagined ruti dWHy mastcrs and 

displaced slave skins will be stuffing pot 
liquored bacon fat drenched pieces of bread rmo | 

«i.„smacky greasy 

doing backspins under snatches of 

" mylar balloons in a megajmall. 








o be dissed. Turned Out:, 

up beyond primate 

prenenSffU^IStriemate Collusion(s). To see stars after being rabbit 











w*- 



This moment appears as a continent, immovable and as wearying as a circular dream, as true to the lines and pitch o 
a kn othole as a knee. Rills, ridges, swirls; a square inch of skin, a yard of wool, a mile of granite, and more of wate 
i>r^stp of air, seen through a glass flume that is k;|pt on a shelf in a bedroom or a vestibule, a temporary monumen 






T ^4- ■ 






. A. 










I 

f 



% 




‘ 'Y • * 'i " 



is V/ e r* y much ^ 
people who mo^ 

-- why would y o^|t 
involved e n e 



r>, idee 
p/t o T 
y ane.- 

p o n en t s 
iFy - - . because what makes 
|§d a n i e s - -- so you have d 
Tenent types or matenial 
SCiP it's veny 

g ts-. that may 

^ 4;^ themselvesT 

If--- it's 
..\Oun situation 




X s a 
move 
kind 



fnagment- - - 



but 



I k 
w h 



anywhene 
of" movement'? 
they move in o n d e n 
encompassing than physi 



- one human 
they never* 
t n a c k that 
p a r* t s - - 
e i s m o r* e 

i t voices or* di-ffenent nannator-s 

t can look at each othen -Tnom acr* 

image sed--- obJectST discanded thin 

be a penspec t% ve--- and they come up against s 
they ane fonced to r* e c o g n i z e the falsity of 
the question of w h e r* e do people belong- - - ma 
her*e - - - fnagments being put together*T I guess 



, w a y is like something displaced--- that the whole kind 
just by na tune of its malleability and the only com 

•*fci~we have is that we just happen to have been selected by a pa 

:h is also m u 1 t i p 1 i c i t o u s » - - and we ju t happen to be eat 
then really- This ie- not necessarily us d< awing the same pict 

-- displacement is just one o^ e tropes of Ameri 

you can reject it or call 't sentimental or call 

whatever or art--- it's jus,- there--- like the co 
ways - - - whatever's out there -1 we're kind of riffing 



! t h e r 

; <^'i o "u s n a s s - 
I quality or 
in a lot of 



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g s 

0 m 
t h 
y b 

1 

0 
m o 
n e 

1 n 
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c a 

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hink they will reflect off each other if you put 
•'ectly-. that space in between is goi»hg to provide 
sresting information - - - wouldn' . it be nice to have 
ends-? You won't be able to tell what started what 
the reader or. the viewer* won't - - - 
just a source-t it's 



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some othe 
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1 1 



ing and artwork by the 1999-2000 visual arts and writing fellows of the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts 

n Altfest, Paulette Beete, Sedrick Huckaby, Amanda Kim, Portia Munson, Katherine Shozawa, Rachel White, Ronaldo Wilson, Sari Wilson 



3 ffl (BO ni-B ra/fflaci-CHCPBC+JL • Li 




Provincetown Is the Center 
the Universe 




e first week of June, when I was sixteen, I ran 
away from my parents’ summer home in Tmro and 
found a room with a friend in a small, squalid board- 
ing house on Johnson Street, in Provincetown. What 
happened there has little to do with poetry, but at the 
tail end of the summer 1 looked up and realized I’d not set 
foot east of Conwell Street for a full three months, and 
that indeed I’d never wanted to. At that time 1 thought 1 
never would want to again. 

Provincetown has a way of making one feel like that, 
and then of making one remember feeling like that, and 
above all of making one wish to feel that way again ... it is 
an isolate throne of yearning. It is a town with memory, 
beauty, and suffering built in, home to people who live 
chiefly in the realm of the imagination and of reproduc- 
tion in its many incarnations; photographers, painters, 
mothers, poets. 

Eventually, though, one must be exiled from the town 
one loves, in order to imagine it more fully, and this hap- 
pened to me when 1 went away to college. One day 1 
picked up a book of poems in a friend’s domi room and 
read these lines, from a poem called "The Height of the 
‘ h , the Thought of Who’s Missing,” by Clark 




edited by 
Rebecca Wolff 

Keith Althaus 
Rae Armantrout 
Paulette Beete 
Sandy Brown 
Michael Burkard 
Clark Coolidge 
Michael Craig 
Nick Fillmore 
Fanny Howe 
Kathe Izzo 
Chelsey Minnie 
Rodney Phillips 
Faith Shearin 
Jason Shinder 
Robert Strong 
J.E.Wei 
Ronaldo V. Wilson 



The Devil dawned a second sun in the morning face 
we saw him there, cleanly and puissant and stare 

I had been writing poems since 1 was twelve, and no 
one had ever told me that it was possible to listen in this 
way — so closely and with such reckless abandon, such 
fniitful contempt for the rules of syntax, of context, of 
conventional sense — to the internal rhythm and logic of 
the inner ear, the inner voice. If my poetical education 
had taken place entirely in Provincetown, 1 am not sure 1 
would have ever learned about what is most important in 
my life as a poet: listening. 

The World of Poetry as it exists in Provincetown, and 
in the institutions of Provincetown, is by and large a ho- 
mogeneous, static one — a very small town indeed. It is, in 
my experience, a world that has sprung out of an idea of 
poetry that is just about thirty-five years old, by my reck- 
oning — an idea that has not so much evolved but nar- 
rowed. and lingered peacefully, like a matron on the beach 
long after the sun has set. 

My intention, then, with this selection of twenty-one 
poems by seventeen poets, is to reintroduce Provincetown 
to itself — to a World of Poetry that contains within it mul- 
titudes. Here is a constellation, a veritable galaxy of poets: 
some with no connection to Provincetown at all, some 
with a shady past, some with a summer house, some with 
a sinecure, some with a fellowship, and some with a yearn- 
ing. Imagine that Provincetown is the sun, and that these 
poems are small planets revolving around it, at varying 
degrees of distance, but with no less relevance. 

—Rebecca Wolff 



Rebecca Wolff grew u}’ in New York City and Truro. She is 
Editor of Fence. Her book, Manderley, is fonhcoiningfroin 
Provincetown Arts Press. 



1 

Rac Arman trout 

I 

In Heaven there is no want 
and we are Wants. 

* 



Shame 
takes sides 

t 

) 

with the whole 
against the parts. 



* 



Burning sensation 
conceived as central — 

lodgepole 
or stalk — 

while a blow 
must be distributed, 

as in seeing stars. 



* 



“I thirst,” 

somebody else 
might say. 

Expression 
is for dying gods. 



Michael Burkard 



One Day 



One day my window was darkened by a train vertically. 

One day my wonderful window darkened with gloves. 

One day my window darkened with window #44. 

Spelling darkened my window on Tuesday, and Wednesday it rained. 

One day my windowed dark drove straight to the bank. 

One day I fed the bee-hive from this side of the window. 

When I looked in another window the day was not mine, not ever it said. 

With their choppy seas, their willingness, their windows. 

The ghost of your mother sobbing in the back seat. 

Every window has a ghost, but not every car. 

Don’t come to the silhouette as a confidant. 

A cloud would have folded over the hushed harbor but the boaters 
had mad pasts they wanted others like us to hear. We would have to 
stay in late and suffer their voices. Slopping is such a false name 
for such an activity you said. 

You said your window isn’t the only one which is darkened. 

I haven’t been alone for two years. 

I can’t sit still with myself, if that is who I am with. 

One of the poets wrote whatever stupid thing I may have said or done. 

It was the unwillingness to be stupid which kept me away, or what I saw 
as the unrelenting unwillingness to be stupid. But I don’t finally 
believe in my sources anymore than I believe in the poet’s. 

One of the windows is something my dream said is much older. 

My dream of day. 

My confidant boards the train three towns after I do. 

I say I do in the windowed dark of a wet book. 

Against what tree have sticks lashed at blue windows? 

My child has been driven out from still another town and is about to 
eat the hands of his little watch. 

If the window gets caught talcing another window, reach in your pocket for 
a rock, a fork, a piece of literature you can drape on a tee shirt 
when the street in the world feels like you must have wanted something. 



PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 i PAGE 109 



\ichohis till more 

To a Friend 



Pedaling through the rain 

on an old 3-speed, 

stripe of mud spattered 

up the back of the blue windbreaker 

you bought at Marine Specialties — 

green scarf knotted at the neck, 

Hitchcock profile — 

you were hilarious 

pumping up and down the green hills 
outside our town. 

1 say that with due affection. 

We don’t talk anymore. 

It's been ten years since we rode out to the point 
to watch a sunset, or caiised the bars 
in our newest silk and feathers. 

Ten years since we split a jug of that horrible red wine 
in your room above the cafe. 

Each summer, sitting late into the night 
to talk — to commune, really, 

(to you it was sacred) — 

about art and life 

you let me talk myself out. 

How necessaiy’ it was 
to talk oneself out! 

In the glow of a red candle, 

in the huge hollowed night, 
sensing each other's silence 
like a pulse, 

1 suppose we were maudlin dmnks. 

You taught me about style. 

For you that was epistemological. 

Style. 1 mean, 

which is knowledge, after all, 
of suffering, translated 
into art. 

For me it was still a mystery. 

Tliis friendship 
claimed after many years 
at an end. 

Maybe it only hurts my mind. 

1 know there are reasons 

why things hold together, and the proper way 

to enter a room, 

and that sometimes words destroy the space 
inside us in which silence fomis 
a truer feeling. 

PAGE 1 10 I PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 



Kelt he Izzo 

I Rested in the Morning 

after E.AI. Forster 

At one time the band was actually 
trembling water actually 
in the bedroom 
It will jreyeiit the mother 
from siiihiess 

It will prevent this and other sieves 
this and other bad news 
hof’e that they would he hai’jw 
violent bang bang 

Actually the band 

girls dressed as boys dressed as girls howls 

the mother from sadness singing 

violent drums bang bang 

they would he hayyy 

wore round the chord 

they would he hayj’y 

bang 



The baby is crying 

with regards to Wallace Steveus, 

Eileen Myles, and the scruffy Narojm hoy 

It was called “Not Yet.” 

1 was meant to be naked. 

It is not that 1 love my blood so much, 
this sl<in. 

Predestined to this night, this noise, and this place 
1 lean up against a black wall. 

Two beers screw up my head, 
my eyes. 1 think: 

1 like to beat people up; some people just get angry. 

All the doors in my house are wide open, 
the baby is crying. 

1 do myself up. 

1 wear something nice. 

1 am glad to be able to go out on the street. 

There is no shooting. 

The grass is in seed, the young birds are flying. 



i 



Paulette Beete 

Four Measures 

1. 

surelymoretohistoiythan 

sweet 

Imi’i’Y 

2 . 

Goose Island Fest. The night warm & eager, Ross leads 
the Mighty Blue Kings, a slick of sound. Eddie follows the 
band masked like a Japanese bicyclist. Holds court in his 
zoot of stains, spilled beer. Drunk on pretty smells & tepid 
hands he shouts Ross, Ross . . . these girls want to meet yon. 
Eddie always requests a song, tonight Kidney Stew. Ross 
always smiles, chides How come yon never ask for my songs? 
then calls the chords. Tonight he sings a verse then Icneels, 
shares the microphone with Eddie. Eddie beams, each 
syllable a careless steam ... 

3 . 

The scene’s a gannet 

ghosting currents 

darting 

down 

to mock 



J.E. H'e; 

Moon Landing 

On the way to the factory 

to peel off the skins of eggplants, 

we saw a child lying by a military truck. 

The street lamp was dim. 

The light fell on her blouse, 
crawled with the smell of urine. 

Her chest supine; her head disappeared. 

Three soul collectors held bamboo swords, 
chanting and ringing bells. 

Their horses looked up and neighed. 

We lifted our heads on the dark path. 

Up there in the pearls’ hometown, 
the child raised her left hand, 
like a laurel twig slowly budding 
from the Moon Lady’s hair. 

The child grew into a tree, 

topped with the head the Moon Lady sewed back. 

The whole night we hid in the lily bush, 
listening to the child shaking the tree. 

She cried her eyes out for her mother; 
her tears became the stars falling down, 
pouring on the American rocket 
that sliced the sky and cut clouds, 
spinning like a voodooed centipede. 

“Armstrong, Armstrong!” 

Dogs barked in villages. 

Soul collectors woke up and shushed them. 

The valley was quiet like the child, 
except a few horses neighed. 

And our dreams slept with her tree, 
in a cave of the Moon Lady’s palace. 



my tongue’s lack of 

pinstofix 



stuff & 
fog 



intosomethingmeasurable. 



4 . 



a bird of sleek & sound braids a spidery ache 



PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 I PAGE 1 1 1 



I'unm llowc 


Robert Stroiiij 


Orthodoxy 


Land Management 


When training to die 
with your back to the train 


When we land here, we are America. 

There is no separating the beach from its place 


you cry Iitdia India! 
to a blind Metropolitan 


in our pioneering consumer consciousness. 

TTiere was Sally, who said it smells like sand 
in the potato chips. I walk to the water braced 
against a vision of milk-fed families in fomial wear, 


It means 

you can’t and you can 


tux cuffs rolled up in the surf. Magnums 
and baby blue jewelry boxes sparkle 
in the sounds of sunset. Come summer. 


So you leap in the arms 
of the tall blind man 


tourists will worry about seals on the sand. 
Travel only on designated pathways. 

It is for Nature’s sake we are segregated. 


who asks you to repeat 


Don’t try too hard to tune in. There are trawlers. 
The airport. Highway hum. There is a lighthouse 


the words again 
(before the train comes in) 


somewhere in this poem. Do you need further aid 
to navigation? The Big Dipper’s pouring-side 
always points toward Polaris: we are now 


though now you're so beat you can’t open your eyes to speak 


looldng north. Parallax can not be proven 
as anything more than our perception, 


or is this being unmanifest? 


yet Columbus managed to not discover America. 
Some say it was Whitman, did. Some say, 

Siberian Snow Wolf. Some say discover 
ten times fast and then find it: a trick word, 
probably best read in translation 
for the non-native speaker. There’s something 
inherently cheesy about Cape Cod. 

I wait on the bike path red-faced, breathing 
and defeated as my dog drinks 
from the Hrst Pilgrim Spring. Imagine me 
with a British accent, by way of Amsterdam, 
fairly international yet displeased 
with the spiritual state of the world. 

Imagine me puking over the gunwales and 
glad to have this test from God, seeing this strange 
desert thrust like a scythe into saltwater stomis. 
Perfect place for Puritans with no Icnack for farming. 
Imagine me burning witches, or tarred & feathered, 
smirldng, for The Offense of Writing Satanic Verse. 
Imagine me, a Park Ranger, writing tickets 
for titties gone naked as savages. 



PAGE ■ 12 PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 



Chclsey Alinnis 



Fur 



I’m ready to plunge into furs and reject the standards of my past. 

.which allowed no warm furs to enclose 

me and no fur linings 

or strips of fur. 

on bare skin 



and 1 could not bury my face in anything soft 

as I used to correlate a bad conscience with the 

repetitive circular hand caress of 

...a soothing material such as fur as I have seen it happen before 

when someone doesn’t say anything for 7-9 seconds 

and you observe the cycles 

of their hand through the fur. 

or they. wrap a fur strap around their fists until 

the sphere of musing bursts and they say. nothing to you 

which indicates a conscience ensconced 

in a faux solace and limned 

with a relief 

a conscience consumed with an 

undisclosed serious concern 

installed in a plush locus 

cannot forgive itself and 

surrounds itself with a valence of ermine 

that insists on being stroked with sincere denial 

I still believe in the need for honor and the refusal of fur stoles 

but I forgive 

the desire for an inhuman softness 



as many people are furious with themselves, 



while wearing clothes of the highest quality 

and they are both disgraceful and touchable 

as they caress their sleeves and wrap themselves, 

or embalm their bad conduct in belly fur. in the loveless fur void bereft 

of anything except comfort 



PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 I PAGE 113 



Ronaldo \ . Wilson 



Brutal End 



Cops say 81 -year-old Ruby Jean Johnson was raped and then slain by a crack addict last year in her Harlem Apartment ... Daily News 



In the photo, my hair blurs into an ovum of ash, 
skin smooth as a girl's. The flash finds my eyes, 
two tiny white grids, lips betongued 

as though I lisp. Punctum: 

I am. refuse, my tank top killed. 

Killed again, 1 am 



in the A&P, white eyes glow from a 
mug coon eyed up to the energizers. 

Dead Batteries'’ 

0 helpless mute of the tile and flooring. With what to pull 
you through the screen of my raped and slain face — 

a shovel, 

an oyster shucker? 

An anagram: Don't let the hlaele eat in. He can't let himself out. 

That hoy burnt uf’ his grandma. 

If our bodies are hieroglyphs, 

1 sing of the charred robe, 
the skins steaming catharsis. 

(Avoid savage relatives. Buy a flame retardant robe.) 

0 vacuities. If we are endless holes, 

1 claim the discordant. 1 claim the pigsty. 

The split subject. 

I claim incommunication. 

Not the steel filed down to black dust, 

I am the anvil’s bow and flat surface: 

O jackie, my frames gape, as though skin 
ripped open like a face burned by iron 
for being beautiful. 

I want the spell of cellophane, its clear preserve, 
gold hoops sealed in the glass door knob. 

Once, on a spoon, I boiled baldng soda and water 
until they caked, and bore a substance: 

in the singed metal, gesticulates 



the snow blower — 
drives snow into snow, 
wind convulsing to matter. 



taith Shcarin 



The Unexpectant 



“We have news,” my husband says to his parents. 

We’re sitting in their living room, near a bay window, 
and we’re enveloped by a heavenly white light. 

“We’re not pregnant,” my husband announces, 

“We’ve decided not to have a baby this year.” 

“That’s fantastic,” his parents say. They stand 
and walk toward us, their arms opened like 
the wings of great birds. I already have a certain 
glow. “How do you feel?” everyone asks me and 
1 smile. “A little nauseated,” 1 say, “but mostly 
alright.” My husband’s father asks what we 
will name it. He is tall and gentle and he places 

his hands in his pockets like a child. “We’ll 
have to wait and see how it doesn’t look,” 
my husband says, “There’s so much of 
nothing ahead.” A few months later, there is 

a shower in our honor. I wear a striped bathing 
suit. My husband wears a thong. “Here are 
some things you won’t need,” the relatives say, 

“We’re so happy for you.” We grin and glow 
from all the attention. We admire our shiny 

new crib, our stroller with detachable car seat, 
our rattle, our lifetime supply of pampers. 

“Who do you suppose it will look like?” an aunt asks. 
“No one we Icnow,” my husband assures her. 

“Do you think you’re ready?” my mother asks. 

“It’s hard to feel prepared,” I say, “So much is unlcnown. 

Everyone nods and I serve a very sweet cake. 

It is chocolate with strawberry icing and there 
is a picture of the future on top. In the picture, 
we are all old or sick or dead and there is a blue 
sky overhead. The world goes on without us. 

Six months later, we drive to the hospital and sit 
in the waiting room smoking an expensive cigar. 

We watch some nurses try to revive a man 
who has swallowed a bottle of aspirin. He has 
white hair and his hands are thick and twisted 
like roots. “I feel as if we’ve been waiting forever,” 



my husband says. I tell him to think of how 
I feel. Twenty hours later, nothing happens. 

We call our parents from the hospital. 

‘W'e have news,” we say, “We have given birth 
to nothing.” We all weep together, into our phones, 
our puffy faces wet against the receivers. 

The next day, everyone comes to our apartment 
to have a look. I carry nothing in my arms. 

It feels light and heavy all at the same time. 

“Our future,” my mother says. Her eyes fill 

with salt water. The nothing is helpless 

and unformed: I feel a deep burning in my heart. 



Keith Althdus 

From the Pilgrim Monument 

for Roger Shillings 

Of Dahlem, in Berlin, 

where they have the bust of Nefertiti, 

Oueen of the Nile, I remember 
just one thing: a 12th century 
ivory carving of a woman in a garden. 

As you circle the case 

it becomes a skeleton full of worms 

in a plot overrun with weeds. 

The climb is breathtaking, 

the view roughly medieval: 

town on one side, 

its boat-filled harbor 

and traffic clogged streets, 

and on the other, graveyards, 

mute and still, stretching to the edge 

of the moon-like dunes, 

which are forever changing, 

shifting, being taken away 

(the tallest one already halved 

since we arrived here thirty years ago), 

and nothing added or put back 

except beach grass 

planted to slow the process, 

and a little dust, ashes 

of friends who loved it here, 

and wanted to stay, or go 

wherever it is going. 



PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 I PAGE 115 



Michael Craii.j 

Here Comes the Dirty Little Wax Baby 



It was no larger than the nodiform basal segment of 
the abdomen of 

an ant, and yet it was as strong as 
any chain and made you laugh. 

A peacekeeper, a kind of “peacekeeper" they said, 
and then you were asked to put it down. 

It looked at first glance 

like a suede shoe in the straw 

but was actually a very, 

very small horse sleeping and its cage 

had dents in it that came from the inside. 

It was a series of glass vases they called TTie Sea, each 
filled to a different level with a pale blue water. 

It was a typewriter. A plain old black metal typewriter. 
When you walked past it it blinked and then 
a billfold fell out of your pocket and flipped open 
on the ground and in it were pictures 
of every member in your family. 

And they were each of them nailed to a large wooden cross, 
which you felt was a bit over the top. 

It was a dirtv'-looking 3 inch 15 dollar wax baby 
lying next to a 2 pound crosspein hammer 
on a step of a short staircase that 
looked like it had not been dusted 
off or stepped upon in 

30 years. This was perhaps the most interesting 

to you — a kind of peck 

on the cheek — the museum was closing — 



Can You Relax In My House 

A felt hat blows end over end across 
the wet asphalt. Children 
bury pennies in the chest 
of a snowman. 

A man had been out walking with a very long cigar. 

As he passed by me, closely, I could see it 

was actually an eight-inch-long ash 

that he had, perched beautifully between his 

fingers. And that he had passed away. 

And that his eyes were gone from his head. 



A Poem 



Tire young prince rode through the countryside in his horse-drawn carriage. 

Upon coming across a pauper 

the young prince called for his driver to stop. 

“1 need a place to pray,” said the pauper. 

The young prince removed his dark cape 

and threw it down to the pauper: “Pray beneath that.” 

I’m telling this to Nan and the boys. 

TTie lamp bums dimly. Nan plays with her lighter. 

I sit quietly, looking at the faint reflection of my eyeball 
in the backside of my monocle. 

TTie young prince 



called again to his driver, 

“Get down and unharness the horses.” 
He loaded his pistol. 



It’s natural, really, 

for people to be interested in the childhood of the hero. 

You start by pulling down the train 

of thought like a thread. This is what affords us 

a man walking about in a meadow 

before lying down in the wet grass and shooting himself 

in the throat. TTie colors of autumn are still 

as they were. Little is changed. 

I go back and put tan birds in the trees, 
just so we can see them there. 



PAGE 1161 PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 



1 



Clark Coolid^c 

Doctor Death Lets Go 



Jason ShinJcr 

Every Season 



I threw him down on top 
of the hole in the home 
one temporal cell to cancel 
and the ringings of the rock 

The lights were out at the lake 
the pictures the victrolas 
the stop-it-won’t-yous 
rest put down in flames 

he washed the corridor in his cape 
scooting past the knowledge ledges 
the films of fruit on everything 
these omnivorous lulls 

Have you seen my cleverness at handling the props? 
a master of right-handedness in elevators 
rigger of the pendulum tomb the clap 
of the iced rainbow click of hate indoors 
and wipe the floors 

With V. Price in a walk-on part 
forgets the number of the bloody 
shirts pants smiles stairs 



A Chance To Sack God 



One day 1 will love. 

It will be late. 
The stars 



will help me. 

How I like to be 

the only one, 



a bull frog 

deep in the woods. 
And watching 

from a distance. 

Shadows 

of friends. 



What am I? 

A lovely man? 

I don’t even want 



to die. 

Close the window, I say, 

already trapped in the glass 

but then move 

as if moving 

from within. 



Guess I’ll see things through 

my wall cock now on 

after they divvy up the oxygen 

left standing to throw a shoe 

watched the family picture bum down 

(somebody told them to stop it) 

what are we doing here in the west 

where life comes on smeary slides 

and the blues are bucking a head wind 

nearly constmed as what? 

like a pressed entertainer 

of a nosegay architecture 

we played Antarctica 

(watched it ripen) 

this great orange head in the distance 

in diameter (near the mins) 

where the cars go to turn black 

a clap and there’s a poem! 

the evening of the following brain 

a squeak and as we listen 

this gauzy girl slips out of the frame 



I know 

who keeps shifting 
the wind. 

Angels 

with no wings. 

I throw seeds 

into it — 

long boughs 

purple lilacs 

as if 

this is not a world 

with too much 

on it. 

No animals 

on the front steps. 



PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 I PAGE 1 1 7 



Samlv Brown 



Rodney Phillips 



Still Life: Two People in a River 



Provincetown 10/30/99 



The Wapsipinicon is a stranger 

asking, Which mjy to the stadium C then looking (half-attentively, 
in a rush) in the direction toward which your finger points. 

We’re both in this which-way 
question of a river, and you’re appraising the unreal 
property of such a lusty current when your face turns 
toward a drag- 
onfly: prophylactic wings a muddle of maraschino, orange & sugar 
in an Old-fashioned. (All events and characters 
geysering from the Wapsipinicon are real or imagined.) 

The jiggled-needle Novocaine of a suffocating late June 
afternoon spills its contents, and I’m left lifelike 
in a current serious enough to take me if I let it. 

(Not just yet.) The heat is dreaming us up and we’re watching 
contortionist twines of jute measure up to us. In the heat-dream 
we call the jute "river.” It kisses our ass. 

We have to hold branches or else be swept away. 

We have left our shoes on the rocky and steep bank, and we can either — 

(a wicked bone of poplar lunges up in a wind, punctures the darkening 
sky, and draws back 
a 500cc amniocentesis of rain) — 

stay in the river or get back into our shoes on the bank. 

We stay in the river, watching rain dent 

the current and become it. I must say beautiful. 

Your eyes lip-synch the three-tiered chandelier downpour as you 
straddle a mucusy rock and light 
a cigarette. Its smoke is a ladder that stops midrung 
and disperses. (1 go under. 

And back up. Kveiything 

is water ...) ...and we're basted under 
1 lelios by a rain that sutures 

a nver that calls itself Wapsipinicon when it passes. 

1 could stay here all 

day. And why not? lire river won’t take us (if we keep 

to the rocks and branches), and our shoes have already been filled. 



This morning I picked up an old copy 

of Provincetown Alls and in it was a 

history of this place or the literary part 

anyway. Sooner or later 1 saw a photo 

of everyone I now know. Or almost. Or 

a painting or poem. Eileen 

wasn’t here then, but there was a picture of 

Nick years ago and one of Marie before 

they both became who they are now. Or at least 

before I knew them. There is some thing about 

this that makes me really sad. Not remembering 

particular events for instance, because you weren’t 

there. You know how you can sometimes make up 

memories by mistake or because of some unknown 

desire. There aren’t really any time machines 

you know, or despite Cher, any turning back of 

time. There are only memories of people I never 

knew or places that never were. Then I saw the picture 

of John and Yoko on the wall and decided 

that it would be nice to know someone 

who no one else ever knew. 



PAGE 1181 PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 



^ 0 e t 






B i Q s 



Keith Althaus’ book of poems, Rival Heavens, was published by Provincetown Arts Press in 1993, and was reissued in a 
trade edition in 1999. He has taught in the Fall Seniors Program at Castle Hill in Truro, and will teach at Provincetown 
International Art Institute this year. He has poems forthcoming in American Poetry Review, and lives in North Truro. 

Rae Armantrout's most recent books of poetry are Ahvle To Seem (Sun and Moon, 1995) and The Pretext (Green Integer, 
2000). Veil: New and Selected Poems is due out from Wesleyan in 2001. Armantrout teaches writing at the University of 
California, San Diego. 

Paulette Beete’s work has appeared in Callaloo, Crab Orchard Review, Third Coast, Rhino and Shanhi’ainter 40. She grew up 
in New York, lives in Chicago, and was a 1999-2000 writing fellow at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. 

Sandy Brown: “I got that poetry MFA from U of 1. 1 was a finalist in the Yale in ’97. A poem of mine was an honorable 
mention at U of H for that Academy of American Poets little prize thingie. 1 went to U of H for fiction but bailed. 1 got a 
rinky dinky MD council on the arts state grant in '93, but problem is that 1 wanted to submit for poetry and fiction but 
could only do one, so 1 submitted poetry in my name and fiction in my mom's name, and the fiction won. So it’s not really 
even a grant 1 can claim, lest the micropossibility that 1 face legal charges. I’ve taught. My biggest accomplishment is that 
1 had five poems published in a magazine called Fence. (You may have heard of it.)” 

Michael Burkard has poems recently in Fence, Hayden's Ferry Review, and Louisville Review. Sarabande Books is putting 
out Unslee/’ing in February 2001, and New Issues Press will be putting out a previously unpublished collection from 1986 
entitled Pennsylvania Collection Agency. He lives in upstate New York and is a part-time resident of Provincetown. 

Clark Coolidge is the author of over thirty books of poetry and criticism, the most recent of which are Alien Tatters 
(Atelos Press), Bomb (Granary Books) and Now It's Jazz (Living Badge Press). He has recently re-relocated to California. 

Michael Craig was raised in Dayton, Ohio. He has since lived in Montana, Wyoming, Massachusetts, and now makes 
his home again in Montana, town of Red Lodge, where he is a farrier, a shoer of horses. He has recently completed his first 
manusenpt of poems. Private Mule. 

Nick Fillmore, co-founder and publisher of SQUiD (semi-defunct and apocryphal Provincetown publication), is cur- 
rently working on a screenplay and looking for a publisher for a completed manuscript of poems — The Most Amazing Color 
was White — a finalist in the UMass Juniper Prize competition. “I’m looking forward to coming back to Provincetown after 
several years away ... with all the pre-date jitters of a reunion with a beautiful woman with whom one has a dark and 
violent past.” 

Fanny Howe is the author of several collections of poems, including the most recent, One Crossed Out from Graywolf Press 
and Selected Poems from University of California Press. She is also the author of a novel. Nod, and teaches at UC, San Diego. 

Kathe Izzo is a poet, filmmaker, mother, and performance artist living in Provincetown. She is completing a novel. 
Hummer — the inside story of a fifteen-year-old girl exploring art, numbness, survival, and gender. 

Chelsey Minnis lives in Littleton, Colorado. Her poem, “Tiger,” was recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize. 

Rodney Phillips, a poet living in New York City, is author (with others) of Hand of the Poet: Poems and Paj’ers in Manuserjn 
(Rizzoli, 1997) and A Secret Location on the Lower East Side: Adventures in Whiting, I960- 1980 (Granary Books, 1998). His 
poems have appeared in Fence, Western Humanities Review, and soon will appear in Paris Review. He is currently Director of 
the Humanities and Social Sciences Library of the New York Public Library. 

Faith Shearin is an English teacher in Detroit. Her poems have appeared in Ploughshares, Alaska Quarterly Review, New York 
Quarterly, and the Chicago Review, among others. She was a fellow at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown and writer- 
in-residence at the Interlochen Arts Academy. Her work is forthcoming in The Third Coast: an Anthology of Michigan Poets. 

Jason Shinder’s new book of poems. Among W'omen, is forthcoming in April, 2001 from Graywolf Press. His most recent 
anthology. Tales From The Couch: Whiters on the Talking Cure is forthcoming in December, 2000 from HarperCollins. A 
teacher in the graduate writing programs at Bennington College and the New School for Social Research, he is the founder 
and director of the YMCA National Writer’s Voice and is the Literary Arts Director at Sundance Institute. A former fellow 
at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, he spends most of his time in Provincetown and New York City. 

Robert Strong lives in Truro and New York City. “Land Management" is from poems written in collaboration with the 
C-Scape dune shack. 

J.E.Wei is a SUNY creative writing fellow and a Ph.D. student at the State University of New York, Binghamton. His 
work has appeared in Prairie Schooner, James W'hite Review, Crab Orchard Review, Mankato Poetrs' Review, Thorny Locust, and 
an anthology, Earth Shattering Poems (Henry Holt.) He has also received the A & B Walker Scholarship from the Fine Arts 
Work Center in Provincetown where he spent two summers studying poetry and painting. 

Ronaldo V. Wilson is a graduate of New York University’s creative writing program and the University of California at 
Berkeley. He is also a Ph.D. candidate in English at the CUNY Graduate Center. His poetry appears, most recently, in 
Beyond the Frontier, Cave Caneni III. and IV. and Harvard Review. He was a 1999-2000 fellow at the Fine Arts Work Center 
in Provincetown. 



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LAURA AND WARD PICKED EACH OTHER out of the end of the- 
summer party, spent the night at her apartment, then decided to drive 
naked to the ocean, one hundred and fifty miles away. They had fallen in 
love. 

But they started too late to make good time. Labor Day traffic out of 
Washington was thick; Ward and Laura crawled along, as sweaty and 
frustrated as everyone else, as downtown slowly gave way to slums, ware- 
houses and suburbs. No one, not even truck drivers, noticed that the couple 
in the red Miata wore no clothes. 

Laura wore her suit of sunlight easily. Her legs rubbed cat-like against 
the velour car seat, and her inky hair lifted and streamed in the blowing 
air. Her eyes were closed against the noon glare because she’d refused to 
compromise her nakedness with sunglasses. To Laura’s dismay. Ward had 
insisted upon wearing his shoes, big gray hiking boots that clung to his 
ankles like twin buckets of cement. It was dangerous to drive barefoot, he 
said. 

The summer had left Ward patched with color — conquistador brown 
on his shoulders and calves, newborn pink on his peeling cheekbones, 
drowned white around his hips. He steered with his hands set in the 10- 
to-2 driver’s ed. position. 

He said, “This is like those dreams where suddenly you’re nude, but 
nobody sees you. But still you try to hide.” 

“1 don’t try to hide,” Laura said, loftily, lying. 

She was in a faint bad humor, pardy because of her hangover, which 
had left her jittery and ashamed, and partly because her leavened mood of 
the dawn had burned away. The holiday was a grinding machine. They 
were pressed on every side by speedboats, jet skis, pickup trucks loaded 
with beer kegs and dogs, everyone hurtling toward the shore for the last 
day of summer. 

She twisted the ruby ring she’d bought herself, with a promise to do 
well, when she’d moved to Washington the year before. She was trying to 
remember, through all the wind and highway fumes, the moment just 
before sunrise when she knew she was in love. Laura didn’t doubt the 
moment, but she was having trouble locating it. 

She must have looked worried, because Ward reached over the gear 
shift and took her hand, just for a second. Then by silent mutual consent 
they pulled apart. They were shy. They didn’t know each other. 

• 

It had been the last party of the season, at the Georgetown condo of 
somebody’s friend. There were Hawaiian shirts, tequila shooters, “Louie, 
Louie” played thirteen times on four pairs of speakers. That late in the 
season, most people were too tired to meet anyone new, so they hung in 
their habitual work cliques. They all worked hard, in government offices 
and law firms, at jobs they hoped soon to rise above. They were all turn- 
ing thirty, to their own surprise. 

Laura always felt anxious at Labor Day, when the year took a perceptible 
downward drop into grayness, chill and New Year’s resolutions. Nothing 
heralded the arrival of this bleak season more than the muscular dystrophy 
telethon. So when the party hostess insisted that everyone gather around 
her bedroom TV to watch the first few moments of the show, Laura hung 
back in the living room, alone, hiding from Jerry Lewis and his nervous, 
bitter eyes. 

She drank a beer. She ate a taco. She eavesdropped on the laughter in 
the next room. Then she noticed the man on the balcony. He was soft- 
shouldered but tall, his white shirttails were loose, and he was stretching 
out his arms like seagull wings. 

Laura crept up to the other side of the balcony door, and saw that he 
was playing airplane. Passenger jets were descending overhead, low and 
heavy, on their approach down the Potomac to the airport; he was help- 
ing them land, pressing down the air with his palms, dipping his knees. A 
boyish rag of hair hung on his collar. Laura thought he must be someone’s 
disturbed brother, then she noticed the expensive crumpling of his shirt 
and the complex laces of his hiking boots. 

She stood behind the door, studying him, with the sinking sun in her 
eyes and Jerry Lewis cackling at her back. When he turned and saw her, 
she was smiling, in pure relief. 

Summer wasn’t over yet. 



Laura was the one who wanted to ride naked to the shore. They took her 
car, but Ward had agreed to drive, just as he had agreed to skip breakfast and 
not to tell her about himself, not yet. 

Laura hadn't wanted to drive because she’d wanted no distraction from 
her first day in love in more than a year. She thought that the car trip with 
Ward would be one long quiver of desire. But as soon as they hit traffic, 
their heads started to ache. Their genitals, so large and commanding in the 
dark, shrank in the daylight until they could barely be seen amid all the 
workaday limbs. 

This surprising lack of lust gave Laura plenty of time to think, but it 
was difficult to think through her hangover, and hard to watch the pass- 
ing scenery through the scalding sunlight. So she hung her head and in- 
spected her body, which was overexposed and line-free in the brightness. 
She did daily exercises to keep tight. Ward was long-boned but a bit loose 
around the middle. He had soft baby hair and a habit of patting his chest, 
or maybe his heart, every few minutes. Laura kept sweeping him with her 
eyes, trying to harvest lovable details, but she could not stop noticing his 
heavy, tightly laced boots. 

They hadn’t talked much at the party. Mainly they’d stood at the edges 
of other people’s conversations, smiling at one another. After, they walked 
the long way back to her apartment, weaving through the darkening, dan- 
gerous streets. Ward began to offer the usual career and romantic informa- 
tion, but Laura pinched his lips shut. “None of this matters yet,” she said, and 
he agreed that what mattered was them, that moment. They 
bought a bottle of strawberry wine and a pack of Marlboros, 
and they walked along holding hands and blowing amateur 
smoke rings. They pretended that they were strolling through 
Laura’s brain, that the cars were her thoughts and the wires were 
her nerves, then she said, “No, it’s my heart,” so Ward closed his 
eyes and walked a whole block of sidewalk without stepping on 
a crack. In gratitude, Laura turned a shaky cartwheel, called up 
from her cheerleading days. Ward responded with a yodel and a 
handspring. Then Laura tightrope-walked down a low spiked 
fence, six steps, then she jumped into Ward’s arms and he twirled 
her around like a baby or a toy plane before setting her on his 
shoulders, which were soft but broad. She rode there the rest of 
the way home, high above him, grabbing at tree branches and 
their tough, late-summer leaves. 

• 

“Laura?” He spoke her name experimentally, tasting it. “We forgot to sleep 
last night.” 

She was watching housing developments slowly surrender to cornfields 
and truck stops. They were halfway there. “I haven’t really slept since 
before I went to college.” 

“Ha!” He tapped her arm. “I caught you telling a fact. That means I can 
tell you one.” 

“One.” She shifted her sweaty thighs on the velour. 

“OK.” He considered, patting his heart. “I’ve had three jobs in three 
states in three years.” He waited for her to ask for details, but she only 
nodded and turned back to the window. 

Every time it began the same, with these eager proffered facts, and 
ended the same, in confusion and reproach. What good would it do him 
to know that she had been engaged twice and spent her days writing press 
releases for the gravel association? What mattered — that her job fright- 
ened her, that somehow in the past year the tables had turned and now 
her mother was calling her to cry and complain — these things could not be 
told to a new lover, not yet. 

What difference did it make if he loved flying, hated asparagus, was an 
aspiring lobbyist or a disillusioned Democrat? It was much nicer to con- 
template the whole man, his cellophane wrap unbroken, his hopes and 
history neatly arranged inside him like rows of imported chocolates. 

This was Laura’s theory. But in practice she was unable to see Ward as 
a whole man, as an agreeable man, or even as the boyish helper of planes. 
She could only see him as a foot, lazily riding the accelerator of her car. 
They were stuck in the slow lane, their front view blocked by the square 
behind of a Winnebago, even though there was plenty of room to pass. 

If only they could be there. 



They had clutched each other, hearts galloping, lungs beating; they had 
risen on their own hot dry chant, / love you I love you, until the room was 
full and stretched like a balloon and they couldn’t stand it anymore, they 
burst naked out of Laura’s apartment into the bright, airy day. They laughed 
and pushed each other forward, yelping as their bare feet struck the pave- 
ment. They ran for her car and drove three blocks before they thought to 
go back for some money and clothes, and Ward’s boots. 

Now the sun was slipping behind the car and Laura was back in the 
shadows. The lines had reappeared on her neck and wrists. Her body looked 
like any other outfit, and tomorrow she had to write another press release 
on another issue she didn’t understand. Out her window she saw the 
same vegetable stands, mockingly repeating themselves, the same truck 
stops, the same slow-creeping Winnebago — 

“Ward?” She touched the skin of his shoulder, felt him flinch beneath 
her strange touch. “Let me drive.” 

• 

That was better. She drove seventy-five miles an hour, her spirits rising as 
the speed drilled up through the sole of her foot. 

Ward did his best not to betray alarm at her driving, but he managed at 
every turn to sneak in unspoken facts about himself. When they passed 
some bicyclists, he pumped his fist at them in a fraternal salute. He tuned in 
a radio opera and sang the party song from Li Traviata in what sounded like 
genuine Italian. 

Laura was just starting to get annoyed 
when she passed an accident and he begged 
her to stop the car. “We’d better help them,” 
he said. 

“Ward.” She pointed at his bare crotch. 
‘I’ll put on a towel. You can stay in the car.” 
“The police are already there.” But she 
pulled off the highway and backed up on the 
gravelly shoulder. 

A silver sports car lay in the ditch weeds, 
upside down and faintly smoking. A state 
trooper was leaning down to talk to a young 
woman sitting in the dirt with her curly head 
in her hands. She looked unhurt but heart- 
broken. Laura watched Ward tighten the pink beach towel around his waist, 
stride up to the wreck, and offer his help. Both the girl and the trooper waved 
him away without looking at him. Ward hesitated at the edge of the accident 
for a moment, then he picked up a plastic cooler from the belongings scattered 
in the ditch. He walked up to the girl, who still stared down at the dirt, and 
quietly set the cooler at her feet. 

Back in his seat, he peeled off the towel and shyly smiled at his kneecaps. 
“I guess that was pretty stupid.” 

“In a good way.” Laura smiled at the side of his face, and stepped on 
the gas. 

• 

Passing by a shopping plaza in Maryland, she got an idea. “Are you 
hungry?” she said. 

“No, my stomach’s still a little weak from the shooters.” 

“Well, I’m going to try something.” She made a Lf-tum and pulled up to 
the drive-through window of a Burger King, where she ordered twelve 
dollars worth of food and received it without a glance from the cashier. 
Next she stopped at a bank and hobbled twenty feet across a gravel lot to 
withdraw cash from the machine. Again, nobody seemed to notice. “Don’t 
people see anything but themselves?” Laura asked Ward, exasperated. 

“I do,” he said. He laid a tentative palm on her thigh, but she was 
determined — she got back on the highway, pushed the car up to eighty, 
and didn’t slow down until she saw a picnic area by the side of the road. 

Ward said, “Is this smart?” 

“Who cares?” She pushed open her door, gathering up a stadium blan- 
ket and the Burger King bag. “I’m hungry and hot, and I guess we know 
we’re invisible. And it’s still goddamn summer.” 

Ward waited for a truck to pass, then darted out of the car and dove on to 
the blanket, which Laura had spread on a bristly patch of grass. There wasn t 




PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 I PAGE 121 



! MUch to the picnic area, just a peeling table, a cold campfire, and an embank- 
ment down to an evaporated river. 

"We aren't going to make it to the beach,” he said. 

"I don’t mind. I just wanted the ride, didn’t you?” Laura was happy to 
be outside, even though cars were flying past them with blind indiffer- 
ence. She picked apart a cheeseburger and fed it to Ward. He let her take 
off his boots and rub his feet, which were long and surprisingly delicate. 
He pressed his thumb against her shoulder, watched his white print dis- 
solve on a field of scarlet. "You’re burning up,” he said. Then, “1 can’t 
remember why we're doing this.” 

“Because we’re madly in love.” 

“Oh. Right.” 

They laughed. Laura stretched out, listening to crows and traffic. “1 
liked what you did for that girl back there. And 1 liked you yesterday, 
with the planes.” 

“Eeh.” He pulled his foreami up to hide his face. "1 was pretty drunk.” 

“You’re kind without having to stop and think about it. But 1 was 
drunk too.” 

“1 can’t drink anymore. 1 shouldn't.” 

“Me neither.” 

They fell asleep pressed together, heedless of the dropping sun and the 
rising breeze. Laura dreamed the ocean had her in its wami salt clutch and 
was bouncing her, rocking her; she was a baby fish, then an old shell-bone. 
Then she was plummeting through cold air onto a field of iron spikes. 

She twisted and opened her eyes and saw a charred stick jabbing her 
shoulder, wielded by a hook-necked old woman in a heavy coat. “1 thought 
you were dead," the woman said, calmly. "1 said, ‘Randall, only two dead 
people could enjoy this wind.'" A spotted old man stood behind her. He 
was also dressed for winter, in a hunting jacket and flap-eared cap. A fat 
dachshund squimied in his arms. 

“Aren't you cold?” the woman said. 

Ward tried to cover himself with the edge of the blanket. Laura glared 
at the old people, proud and defiant. "We have nothing to be ashamed of,” 
she said. 

"Not yet, I'm sure you don't,” the woman said. “We don’t mind, do 
we, Randall?" 

The old man kicked Ward’s bare ankle. "Far from it.” 

The old people sat down at the picnic table, pulled out a themios and 
a stack of sandwiches, and began to eat, taking very large bites, while 
their dog trotted over to Laura and Ward. It was prickly and plump, and 
it smelled bad. Laura screamed softly when it tried to lie across her legs. 
The woman looked over and laughed. "Barney, are you getting fi'esh with 
that poor girl?" 

"We should oo," Ward said. 

"No way." Laura's face was a stubborn stone. She moved closer to Ward, 
away from the dog. which lay in a panting tube on the grass. 

The old people concentrated upon their food and did not seem to give the 
naked young couple another thought. Still, Laura and Ward began to feel 
embarrassed by their bodies. Ward put up a hand to cover his bald spot, a 
velvety pink patch the size of a poker chip. Laura suddenly worried that her 
bottom sagged, and rolled over to hide it. 

I ll hold YOU III’. That was it, the moment she had been trying to remem- 
ber. They'd lain tangled together at the foot of her bed, lost in the dark. She’d 
said, "I'm afraid," and he'd said, “I'll hold you up” — urgent, a promise — and 
she’d believed him. 

A cool wind was sweeping up trash and leaves and campfire grit. Laura's 
burned skin made her shiver. She wanted the ocean, the wann one she’d 
just dreamed about. 

The old people finished their meal. They brushed off crumbs, kissed 
each other on the mouth, called Barney, and drove away without so much 
as a glance at Laura and Ward. 

Silently they got dressed, crouched by the side of the car, concealed from 
the road. Ward put on his stale party clothes of the day before, but Laura had 
brought a new sunsuit she’d found in the juniors department — gum-pink 
with a pattern of beach balls and surfboards. When she saw Ward staring at 



PAGE l22 I PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 



the outfit, she wanted to cross her arms over her chest and hide herself. But 
she only sighed and shrugged. 

“It’s all right,” he said. “1 like it.” 

This hollow, husbandly lie touched her, but in a different way from 
the sidewalk antics of the night before. “I’ve changed my mind again,” she 
said. “I really need that ocean now.” 

He stopped stuffing his shirt into his jeans, glanced at the pink western 
sky. “It will be dark before we know it. And I have an early meeting 
tomorrow.” 

She rubbed her feverish amis. “We can make it back in plenty of time. 
I’ll drive. Please.” 

He stroked the bright fabric of her sunsuit, soothing her, stalling. 

The wind churned around them. “Please,” she said. “You can tell me 
everything. Every job and girl and stupid thing you’ve done. And next 
time we’ll do what you want.” 

“Next time, huh?” But he knelt in the gravel to put on his boots, biting 
his tongue in concentration as he double-knotted the laces. He couldn’t 
have looked clumsier or denser, but Laura started feeling it again, the low 
pulse of desire, marbled now with a strange tenderness that may have 
been pity. 

Ward tied his right boot, saw her looking down at him. 

“They’re good for rough hikes. Maybe I’ll take you, next time.” 

“Please,” she said. 

Ruth llivuel's stories have heat j’uhlished by The Kenyon Review, The 
Missouri Review, Northwest Review, Press, New Orleans Review, Ascent, 
uud other luugaziues. She is curreutiy working on a novel. 



Falcon 

BENJAMIN TAYLOR 

BLESS YOU, BABYLON, dicey, overripe, his place to start from, that was 
New Orleans. The rabbi’s son had himself a full ride to a college he liked the 
name of, even if considered hard to say by friends and relations. Came the end 
of August, time to go, while in the great world here is what went on: at 
Tansonnhut Airfield, Vice-President Spiro T. Agnew praised the South Viet- 
namese for “suffering so much in freedom’s cause,” pledged “no lessening” of 
American support, and added that “the Cambodian situation seems to be de- 
veloping very well.” Janis Joplin flew home to 
Port Arthur for her tenth high school reunion. 
On Block Island twelve FBI agents, posing as 
bird watchers, nabbed Father Daniel Berrigan, a 
fugitive from justice since his conviction on 
charges of destroying Selective Service docu- 
ments. By the banks of the Perdenales, fomier 
President and Mrs. Lyndon Johnson enjoyed a 
private screening of Patton, the hit movie of the 
summer. In San Francisco, Benjamino Bufano, 
who fifty-three years earlier had protested 
America’s entry into the Great War by severing his trigger finger and sending 
it to Woodrow Wilson, died in obscurity. 

While in New Orleans, Dr. Sheldon Kretchmar, pediatrician, booster, the 
worst, the noisiest Nixon-lover in town, pillar of the American Medical Asso- 
ciation, who’d seen Gabriel Geismar through chicken pox, scarlet fever, mumps 
and, in early adolescence, a spell of astlima so severe it had led to pneumonia, 
looking down the youth’s throat one last time, said, “Tulane or LSU?” 

Neither. Gabriel named the college of his choice as best he could witli a 
depressor on his tongue. Dr. Kretchmar took it out. “Swarthmore,” the rabbi’s 
son repeated. 

Kretchmar revolved the name. “Never heard of it.” 

“Swarthmore college, sir, in the suburbs of Philadelphia, and a grand look- 
ing place by the brochure tliey send.” 

“Well, I’ve never heard — ” 




“It’s a liberal arts college.” Kretchmar looked him up and down, seeing not 
less than another Julius Rosenberg in the making; wished Gabriel all the best. 

After any doctor’s appointment, even with the dentist or the optician, when 
Gabriel came home the rabbi would ask, “Did he look down your throat? Did 
he look up your address?” — which when Gabe was little he'd thought funny. 
But how many years in a row can you laugh at the same joke? Rabbi Milton 
Geismar, like fathers generally, rehearsed all quips till they stood there embod- 
ied and part of the furniture. 

“Dad, j’lease!” Gabriel clutched his fingers to his temples. “You’ve been 
saying diat since 1 don’t loiow when.” 

“Nonsense, son, 1 just now thought it up.” 

Gabriel shuddered, ground liis teeth, took a valedictory ride to town on the 
St. Gharles Avenue streetcar, got off where the track turns around at Poydras, 
walked along Ghartres, then briskly down Toulouse, looldng for an infamous 
low green door in the wall. A gentleman in a public facility at die levee had 
told him this was the place. You paid your money, you went in, you had 
yourself some fun. 

He paid his money, he went in. He stripped down to nothing at the locker 
provided, then thought better of it and pulled his briefs back on to restrain 
the bare fact, for this den excited at once with its miscellany of smells, 
an omnium gathemm — musky, civety, Liederkranzy, commingled widi 
alcoholic exhalations and with steam — of what a celebrated peri- 
odical of the day only boasted of being but these baths verily were: 
man at his best. (Told that that magazine was for “the man’s 
man” and utterly misunderstanding the phrase, Gabriel had hur- 
ried off to buy a copy. Any mention of the word man stirred 
him. Even a copy of Reinhold Niebuhr’s Nature aud Destiny of 
Man, found one airless afternoon on his father’s highest shelf, 
had merited ten minutes of browsing through.) 

He entered the warren of cubicles, moving briskly as he 
could through the corridors of men with towels around their 
middles. Each open door framed in the variable light a bare boy 
or man, some recumbent on cots, some standing; and some 
showing off. As for the closed doors, they were also very inter- 
esting. Gabriel had an impulse to loiock, hearing noises from 
behind one of them, but thought better of it. 

Farther down the corridor a black man tossed his head side to 
side, said as Gabriel passed by, “Git in here, sugar,” and beckoned witli 
an authoritative motion of the arm — assured, official even, as if directing traffic 
in an emergency. 

Wliich this was. He asked in the courtliest way if he could take Gabriel’s 
underwear off. This is what they mean by den of iniquity, Gabriel told himself. 
1 Eke it. But eight seconds later, having moaned and shuddered out of this 
beside-himself self back into his real and habitual one, waked up from plea- 
sure, he felt another way entirely and pushed the nappy head aside, yanked up 
his underwear and wished hell for leather to be out of there. His mind veered 
to numbers, clean things, the cleanest indeed anywhere in or out of this world. 
Primes, for instance, the haughtily exclusive category of those quantities divis- 
ible only by themselves. And perfects, perfect on account of being equal to the 
sum of their divisors. And amicables, two numbers each of which is equal to 
the sum of all the exact divisors of the other except the number itself. On these 
latter it was a particular pleasure to dwell. 220 and 284 for mstance. Gabriel 
added the divisors, just to confimi 220’s amicability — (1 -i- 2 -i- 4 -t 71 -i- 142, like 
that), then those of 284 ( l-i-2-(-4-t-5-t-10-i-ll-i-20-i-22-i-44-t55-i- 110). Easy 
in your head. But now try 17,296 and 18,416. Some four hundred such pairs of 
amicable numbers have been discovered, with more out there certainly. But 
whether the number of amicables is finite or infinite nobody has yet nailed 
down. And wouldn’t it, Gabriel thought, be fun to l<now. 

There was where he returned to, the frontier he reconnoitered: mfinity. 
The physical universe may or may not be a case of it. But the mind, as attested 
by calculation of any irrational number to the //th decimal place, plainly was. 
And this was the real fun, according to Gabriel Geismar, embodied passion 
being but the other fun. Now the worshipper on the floor, exultant in his 
degradation, kissed Gabriel’s hand, his poor put-upon left one, then drew back, 
asked the inevitable question, “Wass wrong witch yuh hand?” 

“Bom that way.” The standard answer he gave. 

“Don’t make no diffunce.” 




But it had, it did. For such an ftregularity little allowance is made. At regular 
intervals, from cradle to grave, you must be reminded. The littlest thing, really, 
an error of some kind in the genetic manufacture of hun — on his left hand 
Gabriel Geismar had two thumbs, absolutely identical, down to the moons in 
the nail beds and the lines across the knuckles. Gonjoined Siamese-style, func- 
tioning perfectly well as one, they had yet drawn the stares and incredulity of 
the world (of New Orleans, that is) and made for Gabriel Geismar a destiny. 

“Look to me like when you see some turnip or tomatah or maybe radish, 
you know, trymg to turn into two. Dass what it look to me like.” And now the 
black man bestowed a kiss specificaEy on the thumbs. “Wass yuh name?” 

No answer. 

“Wass yuh name?” 

“Um, Forrest, Forrest Delavoy,” Gabriel lied, pressuig into service the name 
of a detested classmate at the New Orleans Gountry Day School. 

“Fahrust Dee-la-voy! 1 do like that name.” 

Gabriel made to leave, shaking the man’s hand, business-like; but the rich 
irony of this caused a laugh to well up in both of them. 

“Don’t say goodnight, sugar.” 

I’ve got to go somewhere tomorrow morning.” 

“Where you goin?” 

Pennsylvania.” 

“Pensuh\v?//;yuh? Lawd! You college boy?” 

“1 am.” 

“Ha! Knew it even witch yuh clothes off. How come you go 
way up there?” die man asked, getting to his feet. 

Gabriel shrugged and said, “I’ve got to head home now.” 
Wou ain’t even aksed my name.” 

No, indeed. Gabriel had wanted this man nameless as a cloud 
or clump of earth. 

“My name Glarence Rappley.” 

“Good to know you,” Gabriel said, and die sayuig so seemed 
to scatter his resistance a Etde. Seeing this, Glarence helped him- 
self to a kiss; and though Gabriel intended it to be closemouthed 
and brief, that kiss Engered out, opened up, tasted good. 

“Les go back to my crib.” Here Glarence showed his pretty 
teeth. 

- “Home with you?” Along the alley behind the house on 

Terpsichore, owned by the synagogue and furnished to Rabbi Geismar 
and where Gabriel had been brought up, were servants’ quarters he’d been in 
and out of all his life. For want of a better frame of reference, he imagined 
Glarence Rappley residing in one of these with eight or ten siblings and a wits- 
ended mother. This is what life in the alley had been — makeshift, volatile, 
unfreshened, colored existence as it struggled up and gave out. Home with 
Clarence Rappley? No, no. “No.” 

“Yuh place?” 

His place, excellent, with a rabbi and rebbitsin asleep down the hall. “No, 
Clarence.” 

“Maybe you jus lemme walk you home.” 

Getting shut of Clarence Rappley would not be so easy as saying no. “All 
right, then.” 

“Go put yuh clothes on.” 

• 

They walked up Toulouse, then down Bourbon, not saying much, drawEig 
only an occasional stare from the milling, gabbing, faLEng-down throng — ^Tex- 
ans, Arkansans, et cetera, tourists out for a big tune, some of them by that 
hour relaxing in the gutter, in their vomit. These revelers were busy, didn’t 
care much what a little Jew and a big Negro were doing on the town. 

At the edge of the Quarter, Gabriel again tried to take his leave. “So hap- 
pens 1 be goin yuh way,” was what Clarence Rappley told him. “What street 
yuh Eve on?” 

“Josephine,” Gabriel lied. 

“Ain’t that a coinkidink! 1 jest happen to be goin to Josephine myself!” 

So at St. Charles and Poydras they boarded the streetcar, in which people 
did stare. Clarence outfaced them. “Nice night if it don’t rain!” He took the 
seat beside Gabriel and threw a companionate ami around him. “Stop it!” 
Gabriel hissed. A mannish blond lady made a small mouth at them. A man in 



PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 I PAGE 123 



a seersucker suit and white shoes and a boater looked interested. A freckle- 
faced black woman Hxed a glittering eye on Gabriel’s supernumerary thumb. 
He leapt up, made for the other side of the car. “I don’t even know this man! 
He’s followed me all the way from Toulou — 1 mean from Chartres Street. 
He’s harassing me!” 

"Call da po-lice, you so upset,” suggested the freckle-faced woman, and 
let out a laugh. 

“Dass right, dawlin, call em,” said Clarence. 

The seersuckered man, who’d been screening himself with the day’s 
Picavmte, kept peering over it. Everyone grew silent, waiting for the other 
shoe to fall, but before it could a loutish low-class character from the 
front end, availing himself of the circumstance that these two blacks were 
the only ones on board, yelled, “You jigaboos shut up! And you there, you 
pipe down too. Don’t know him — in a pig’s ass you don't!” 

With that the seersuckered gent disappeared altogether behind his Fiaj- 
yitiie. Gabriel pulled the cord, quickstepped from the car at Lee Circle. 
Head lowered, bullish, Clarence Rappley followed. 

Now Gabriel flew down Howard, Clarence hollering after him the plain 
truth: "You cahwud! Cahwud what you is, Fahrust Delavoy! If that’s even 
yuh name! Cause it sound mighty phony to me!” Stomring on, not turning 
round, Gabriel noticed he couldn’t see the pavement for tears starting into his 
eyes, couldn’t have spoken if he’d tned, but turned now to face his rightful 
accuser. Clarence slapped at the air, then made as if to punch Gabriel, right left 
right but carehil that the blows fell short, and was upon him in an ironbound 
hug. Gabriel WTiggled a moment. Clarence Rappley set him free . . . 

Like an uncupped bird he flew, veering for home, there to put all real 
events behind him. He took out Ids mathematical diary, put down a few 
random things which had occurred to him that day — two or three indeed 
having gemiinated even as he ran the rest of the way down St. Charles, 
then up Terpsichore. Ah, now for calculability, sweet detachment from 
the corporeal universe and its demands; here in the abstract manipulation 
of symbols of quantity according to unchangeable rules was the freest of 
feelings. Integers, fractions, reals, imaginaries, transcendental. 

Bliss. 

Tonight, a little fun outside the boundaries of three-dimensional space, 
while the heavens chum around him, while in other galaxies, worlds beyond 
us, other minds behold in who knows how many dimensions. Beyond us, 
though not utterly — we can with symbols exploit these dimensions by orders 
of magnitude up to the /;th. Before bed Gabriel puts himself through his 
non-Euclidean paces, watching the demonstrations lengthen out on the 
diarv' page. He is a falcon with the hood still on. He calculates in his darkness. 
And how is it, he wonders, that whatever is matter or energy is numerical? 
Whence this unstinting effectiveness of numbers? The answer to that is so 
deeply hidden that this our average solar system may well expire, its star 
out of fuel, before we or some post-anthropic intelligence of the earthspeck 
find out. The why of it may forever be too hard, the way arithmetic is too 
hard for earthworms. 

New Orleans outside his window had settled down. Gabriel did the last 
of his packing, brushed his teeth, climbed in bed. He recalled for the Hrst 
time in more than an hour that he had three thumbs instead of two. And at 
the instant of nodding off heard a voice say, “Wass wrong witch yuh hand?” 
and “Don’t make no diffunce.” The night freshened, then turned to rain. And 
now all the Gabriels, on such timid temis with one another by day, broke 
togetlier the bread of sleep. A covey of bobwhites settled onto the rabbinical 
back lawn: picked and nattered, bol’-WT-HTE, j'oor-hob-W'WTE; went away. 

Bless you, Babylon. 

Benjamin Taylor has eontribnteil to magazines ineliuling Bookfomm, BOMB, the 
Los Angeles Times Book Review, anJ Threepenny Review. He teaches at the 
Hew School for Social Research ami Bennington College ami is the author of a 
boob of essays, Into the Open; Reflections on Genius and Modernity, ami a 
novel, Tales Out of School, which received the Harold Ribalow Prize. 



Justice 

KATHERINE TOY MILLER 




S arah’s twenty-year-old assistant, Jill, has been working for her for two 
weeks. They get along, but not famously. Sarah runs the back room of 
a small newspaper print shop in Los Angeles and develops the photographs. 
Jill does the layout. 

On Monday Sarah notices Jill talking to the delivery boy, Mike, a kid 
just out of high school waiting for summer to end so he can play college 
football. With his beefy amts folded across his beefy chest, he seems to 
have the muscles and the confidence. Jill, with her round breasts thrust up 
and her round butt thrust out, smiles at him like a doll-shaped sucker 
waiting to be licked, an obsequious pose she never concocts for Sarah. 
Ten minutes later they are still talking, and the pressmen are waiting for 
something to do. 

"Jill, you’d better get those ads typed up,” Sarah shouts as she throws 
down a stack of newspapers on the counter. 

Jill smiles and motions her hand in Sarah’s direction but keeps talking. 
Sarah looks at her again. Jill waves goodbye to Mike and sits at her com- 
puter. Soon Sarah hears Jill laughing with the secretary. Sarah wraps a 
string around a bundle of papers and pulls until the string breaks. 

“Ey, mi novia,” Carlos, a little Chicano guy, says to Sarah as he stuffs in 
inserts. “Una mal chica.” He nods towards Jill. 

Sarah smiles at him and redoes the string. 



In the courtyard of her apartment complex Sarah’s neighbor boys, Lonnie 
and Nicholas, are playing. They are both blue-eyed blondes but look noth- 
ing alike. 

Nicholas, the younger one, the one she likes best, asks, “Can I wash your 
car?” He has a round baby face. 

Lonnie, whose face is long and thin, adopts a girlish pout as he pulls the 
petals off a flower he picked from the flower bed. Lonnie does not like to 
wash cars. He knows it makes him look bad because Nicholas does. 

Sarah shakes her head. “No, it’s too late.” It is almost dark. 

“Utihhhh,” Nicholas says, slapping his forehead. “We’re bored.” Their 
mother doesn’t have enough money to keep them entertained. They don’t 
even have bicycles. 

Sarah looks at them with pity. ‘Tm sorry,” she says. 

That evening she is watching something that takes place at a home for 
battered children, perhaps a light drama. The children play touch football 
on the lawn with their crutches and broken arms while their parents, 
supervised by a counselor, have breakdowns and confrontations on the 
living room couch. The doorbell rings, and she gets up to answer it. 

“Can we play with your computer?” Lonnie asks. 

“No. It isn’t working very well.” The mouse is fried. 

“Well, can we color then?” Nicholas says. 

She lets them in. They run across the room to her art supplies. 

“Does your mother know you’re here?” Their mother was a dmg ad- 
dict. They grew up in welfare motels. Now she is a bom-again Christian 
and keeps tight control on them. 

Nicholas makes big eyes at her and nods. “She told us to come here.” This 
is probably a lie, but if Sarah calls his mother and it is, he will get in trouble. 

A few minutes later while she is taping Nicholas’s picture of an American 
flag with pink stars and green stripes to the refrigerator, Lonnie comes in 
with his drawing of her. She has a nose like a pig and a smile like a water- 
melon-shaped slice of board fence. “Sarah is pretty,” it says. 



PAGE 1 24 I PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 



“That’s nice,” she tells Lonnie. 

“Zack is the best artist in my class,” he says. “Am1 he is the cutest boy. I 
just love him.” He rolls his eyes and gazes at the ceiling. 

• 

In the morning Sarah finds Jill talking to Mike again. This time Jill is 
working though Mike isn’t. Bundles of papers are waiting to be taken out. 
Sarah watches as Mike and Jill kiss goodbye. She has also watched Jill kiss 
her boyfriend goodbye. It looks the same. 

That afternoon when Sarah goes into the darkroom, Jill and Mike are 
making out in the corner. They smile at her. She closes the door and waits 
for them to come out. 

The big boss, Mr. Reynolds, walks by. “What’s going on, Sarah?” 

“Oh, nothing. Just waiting for something to develop.” 

“Well, find something to do.” 

“Sure, okay.” 

After he leaves, Sarah opens the door again. They giggle, and Mike’s 
belt buckle drops against the concrete. “Get the hell out of there,” she 
yells. She shuts the door. 

When they come out, Sarah says, “All right, you guys. I don’t want 
this to happen again.” 

“Sure, all right,” Mike says. He puts his arm around Jill’s waist and 
looks down at Sarah with his head cocked back. 

Mr. Reynolds comes up again. “Jill, I’ve been looking for you. Could 
you come to my office for a minute? I’ve got a new ad campaign I want 
to discuss with you.” 

“Certainly, Mr. Reynolds.” Jill smiles at Sarah then at Mike. Mike takes 
his hand off her butt. 

“I’d just love to work on a new project,” she says to Mr. Reynolds as 
they walk away. 

Inside the darkroom Sarah kicks the boxes of chemicals. 

• 

Lonnie and Nicholas are wandering around the carport when Sarah 
drives in. 

“Take us to McDonald’s!” Nicholas yells, running towards her car. 

“I don’t have any money.” This is true. She had to have her car repaired 
so her checking account is empty, and she cut up her credit cards so she 
wouldn’t overspend. 

Wes, you do,” Lonnie says in a snooty tone, one hand on his hip, one 
shoulder thrust forward, his chin in the air. “You just don’t like us.” 

“She likes us,” Nicholas says. “She’s the only friend we’ve got.” 

She invites them into her apartment for ice tea. They watch as she as- 
sembles everything. 

“This is pretty,” Lonnie says, tracing his finger over the design 
on the china sugar bowl. He holds it over the floor. “If I drop it, it 
would break, huh?” 

She wants to grab it from him. He sees the distrust in her eyes 
and deliberately pours sugar onto the linoleum. 

“Lonnie, clean that up!” she shouts. 

Lonnie shakes his head, puts the bowl on the counter, and runs 
out the door. 

“I’ll clean it up,” Nicholas says. “I always have to clean up after 
him. He’s lazy.” He heads to the broom closet, walking like a farmer 
going to pitch hay. He never misses an opportunity to be cute. 

• 

The next day Jill calls in sick. Sarah goes to Jill’s computer to 
type some ads Jill was supposed to do. Before she starts, Sarah 
browses through Jill’s files. Jill has set up her own Web site com- 
plete with a color photograph and her vital statistics. Sarah skims 
through Jill’s e-mail. Of course all of her pen pals are male, or pre- 
tend to be. 

After she finishes Jill’s work, she has to skip lunch and go develop film. In 
the dark she spools two rolls and puts them into cans. She turns on the red 
safe light, pours the developer in, and is walking away from the sink when 
she trips over some boxes of chemicals that have been moved. She falls hard, 
hitting her chin against the concrete. She certainly didn’t put those boxes in 
the middle of the floor. 

She goes to talk to Mr. Reynolds. 




“Well, I’ve had a lot of bad reports about Jill,” he says, “but 1 think people 
are just jealous. She’s a very attractive girl, you know. It sounds like a per- 
sonal problem to me. Why don’t you two work something out.” 

Sarah nods, her hands and chin throbbing from breaking her fall. 
When she gets home she looks in the bathroom mirror. Her chin has 
blossomed into a plum. 

• 

At breakfast there are no eggs and no milk, so she has com flakes with 
orange juice on them. Tomorrow will be pay day. She is still hungry, so 
she mixes up sugar, cornstarch, and water, cooks it, and eats that. When 
did she ever have money to spend on cornstarch? 

As she washes her damaged face, she remembers she is going to have to 
talk to Jill. She wants to tell her she is a stupid slut, but that doesn’t sound 
too professional. How else can she put it? She would tell Jill she will get 
rid of her if she doesn’t straighten up, but can she get rid of her? Mr. 
Reynolds likes Jill. 

When she gets to work Sarah opens the back door to the alley. Jill and 
Mike are standing nearby making out. 

“Uh, Jill, could I talk to you?” Sarah asks. 

Jill looks at Mike then at Sarah. “Could it wait?” 

“No, I don’t think so.” 

“Okay. See you in a few, Mike.” 

“Morning, boss,” Mike says as he slips inside. 

“I haven’t done anything wrong, have I?” Jill inquires as they stand 
beside the dumpster. “Mr. Reynolds thinks I’m doing a really good job.” 
“Yeah, well, there’s just a few things. Like the other night you left 
some boxes out in the darkroom.” 

“Oh, I didn’t leave them out. Mike did. My boyfriend was waiting, and 
it was time to punch out. I told Mike to put them back. It wasn’t my 
fault.” 

“Maybe you and Mike shouldn’t be in there together.” 

“But you said 1 should get familiar with all the facilities. Mike was just 
showing me where things were. You don’t have a problem with that, do 
you?” 

Sarah shakes her head. Finally she says, ‘You know, your job doesn’t 
really require that you have your own web site.” 

“But Mr. Reynolds told me that he wants me to know about all the 
technology. He sees a big future for me here. You could ask him. 1 know 
he’d agree. Was there anything else?” 

“No. Just be careful around the darkroom. And try to do something pro- 
ductive during the time you’re being paid.” 

“Well, I will, and thank you for talking to me. I certainly want us to get 
along because 1 have to work for you.” 

‘Yeah,” Sarah says though it hardly seems true. 

“I’d better go. Mike’ll be waiting.” 

At lunch Sarah sees Jill and Mr. Reynolds walking out of his 
office towards the front door. 

• 

After work Sarah drives around wondering what to do. She 
certainly doesn’t want to go home and see tonight’s sitcom. Fiesta 
U. It makes her sick to watch all those fraternity and sorority 
kids making out during lectures and drag racing through stoplights 
in their convertible sports cars. She passes a laundromat and 
decides to stop. Someone told her about finding three dollars in 
change at one once. 

Inside, she gets down on her hands and knees and begins 
moving down the rows, sticking her hands under the machines 
and in the spaces between them. People come and go, but all she 
sees are their shoes. She is impressed by a nasty pair of black 
patent leather pumps with pointed toes and a strap back, but 
when she looks up the girl wearing them could only be twelve or thirteen. 

A scrawny, little man comes in wearing dirty pants and carrying a 
laundry bag over his shoulder. He walks up to the laundry aids machine 
and begins pulling all the knobs. “Fuck this shit,” he says. “1 don’t need this 
information.” 



PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 I PAGE 125 



She smiles at him. Her knees are sore and she is covered with lint. She 
found two quarters and a dime. She gets up, brushes herself off, sneezes, then 
leaves. “Fuck this shit. I don’t need this information,” she tells herself. 

Friday morning Mr. Reynolds announces there will be no paychecks. A com- 
puter broke down in die main office. Sarah has no food left for the weekend. 
During the morning she finds Jill and Mike making out in the darkroom, the 
newsprint storage room, and behind the filing rack for old newspapers. 

She goes through her desk and finds some more change, so for lunch she 
walks to the mini mart. She gets a Coke and a package of Zingers, the most 
calories for the dollar. One aisle over she sees two heads, one dark and one 
blond, leaning together. She thinks it is Mike and Jill, and she starts to throw 
her Zingers at them. She walks around and sees that it is two teenaged boys 
looking at comic books. 

Back in the lunch room, everyone is talking about where they have 
seen Mike and Jill making out. 

“1 saw them go into the women’s room.” 

“1 saw them in the men's room.” 

“1 saw them getting into the delivery van one afternoon. It must have 
been a hundred degrees out there." 

"Tlie paper boys laugh whenever they see Mike,” an old guy says. “They 
follow him around and say, 'Where's Jill? A boomba, boomba’ and hold 
their hands out like breasts and wiggle." 

Even Sarah laughs. 

Then Jill and Mr. Reynolds come to the door. Jill smiles at everyone and 
Mr. Reynolds says, "Glad to see you're having a good time. Maybe you’ll 
do more work this afternoon." Mr. Reynolds leaves. 

Jill sits down. “He is so stiiii” she says, gazing at the ceiling. She could 
be talking about Mr. Reynolds or Mike or someone she just met. No one 
knows how to answer her, and soon everyone drifts off. 

Sarah is called to the counter to help one of their regular customers, 
Bill, a lawv'er who brings his legal ads to their newspaper because it has 
cheap rates. He has on yellow slacks, a green and black plaid shirt, and a 
brown sport coat. Sarah cannot figure out his coordinating principal. He 
asks her if she wants to go to dinner. He has asked before. This time she 
says yes. It is the only way she can think of to get a meal. Other women 
go out with guys because of their money all the time, she tells herself. 

After he leaves, she heads for the darkroom. The door is shut, so she 
knocks and shouts. “Hey. get dressed. I'm coming in.” When she finally 
opens the door, Mike and Jill aren't there. She goes in but turns around 
when she hears them walking by. They lift their hands to show they aren't 
touching and smile at her. She wants to throw a bottle of developer at 
them and melt them down to two sensuous pools of clothing, but there is 
nothing she can do. Her hands are shaking so much she can’t even wind a 
spool of film and has to give up. She wants to smash Jill. She won’t, but 
maybe someday someone will if Jill isn't careful. 

In the main room Sarah takes a place on the line next to Carlos and 
does inserts. 

“Como esta?" Carlos says. 

“Esta sick and tired of this shit.” 

“El trabajo?” 

“No, la bruja, la mujera blanca.” 

“Do you want to come to mi casa for dinner?” Carlos says. 

“No. 1 have a date.” 

“Ah, bien. You're not looking so good these days anyway.” 

“Thanks a big fucking lot.” 

“Ah, mi novia, mi amor.” Carlos clutches his heart. 

“Ffey, get to work down there,” someone shouts. 

On her way home Sarah sees a small, blond woman on a bicycle just 
ahead of her. She thinks it is Jill. She looks around in her car for something 
to throw at her. She wishes she had a cup of Coke, but all she has is a rock. 
She turns to follow the bicycle. When she goes by, the woman on the 
bike smiles. It isn't Jill. It takes Sarah ten minutes to get back to her street. 

• 

An hour before Bill is supposed to arrive Sarah lets the boys color in the 
living room while she goes into the bathroom, pours peroxide in a cup, and 
dips the ends of her straight, brown hair into it. She watches in the mirror as 



the bottom half of her hair turns yellow-orange. Lonnie comes in. He looks 
at the barrettes and hair clips in her drawer longingly. 1 le picks up an elabo- 
rate gold one and strokes it. He sees her watching him. 

“I can't have this,” he tells her as if someone has already told him, 
“because I'm a boy, and boys don’t wear these.” He throws it in the drawer, 
slams the drawer shut, and runs back to the living room. 

After the boys leave, Sarah is in her bedroom getting dressed when she 
hears a noise in the living room. She walks in buttoning her shirt with her 
jeans unzipped. 

“Hi,” Bill says as if they are Irest friends. 

They go to a pizza place Bill likes because it is cheap. He spent the 
morning serving eviction papers, he tells her; it is his favorite part of his 
job. Then he talks about the money he gets for doing different legal chores 
and how much he saves by shopping at a warehouse supermarket and 
buying foods in bulk. 

When the waitress drops off the tab, Sarah insists on paying so she 
won’t owe Bill a thing. She writes a bad check. Her bank will cover it, but 
it will cost. Bill is so grateful she thinks she will have to slap his face. 

On the drive back to her apartment he asks if he can come in for a cup 
of coffee. 

“We don’t even lihc each other,” she says. 

He reluctantly agrees but still wants to come up. 

“I hate you,” she tells him. 

“That bad?” he asks. 

She nods. 

To make sure she doesn’t get forced into anything, when he pulls up to 
her building she opens the door while the car is still moving and jumps 
out. She mns inside, locks the door, and turns on all the lights. 

The boys are soon knocking. She sits outside on the steps with them 
enjoying the cool night air. 

“Wlien you’re in your emotional wheelchair you can go to the emotional 
wheelchair campground and they’ll take care of you for the weekend,” 
Nicholas tells her. 

“That’s stupid,” Lonnie says. 

“Well, or else if you’re blind, they’ll let you bring a seeing eye hamster 
to the park as long as you keep him on a leash. You can go on nature 
walks. There’s piles of corn for him at the stops, and you can touch the 
trees and plants and things.” 

After a while Nicholas wants to get his baseball and play catch, so they 
walk towards the boys’ apartment. Lonnie hangs back. He doesn’t want 
to play catch. Sarah waits for him while Nicholas runs ahead. 

“Watch me,” Lonnie says. He starts walking on his tiptoes as if he is 
wearing high heels. His hips sway, and he waves his hands, limp-wristed, 
in flourishes to each side. 

“1 have to walk like this,” he tells her. 

She knows, in a way, it is true. He crosses the whole courtyard with- 
out letting his heels touch the ground. 

Nicholas comes out with his baseball. Lonnie straightens up. 

“When I get paid, I’ll take you guys to McDonald’s,” she says, catching 
Nicholas’s toss. She can’t really afford it, but she doesn’t care. 

“Yeahl” Nicholas shouts. 

“But I don’t lihe McDonald’s,” Lonnie whines. “Can’t we go somewhere 
I want to go?” 

“Shut up, Lonnie. You do too like McDonald’s,” Nicholas says. 

Sarah smiles at them. She is giving up on justice. Things are never going 
to turn out fair. 

Katherine Toy Miller's fiction has aj’jK’aretl in Mademoiselle, Best of the 
Missouri Review, Another Chicago Magazine, ami elsewhere. She is a former 
Tine Arts Work Center fellow. 




PAGE 126 I PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 



Cherry 



NORRIS CHURCH MAILER 



r?^?sv Ritier was incredible. Brother Wilkins was right, in a way, to be scared 
it. The heroes were long-haired dope-smoking hippies on a motor- 
cycle road trip across America, and the villains were ignorant rednecks, 
just like all the ones who drank coffee at the Town Cafe right here on 
Main Street. 

One of the hippie characters, whose name was George, was played by a 
really adorable guy named Jack Nicholson, and in the scene when they were 
sitting around the campfire and he got stoned on grass and started talking 
about UFOs, it was just the best. 1 think every kid who saw that wanted to 
be on the road and free like that. Then later, when they stopped at that little 
cafe — which, I kid you not, was a dead ringer for the Town — and all the 
stupid old hicks were making nasty cracks about their long hair and all, 1 
couldn’t hardly stand it. I had seen it too many times in real life. Even G. 
Dub, who had lived in this town his whole life, got a lot of grief when he 
started to grow his hair long. 

It was a big relief, in the movie, when they left the cafe — after realizing 
that they weren’t going to get served — without a fight. I thought, They 
are smart to get out of there. They’re going to be all right. Ha. In the very 
next scene, they were ambushed by those same rednecks from the cafe, and 
George was killed. 

I just couldn’t stand it. I started to cry. It was 
so real. I could see Tripp lying there, his head 
bashed in by a baseball bat, just like George. 

“Don’t cry, Gherry. It’s just a movie.” He put 
his arm around me. 

“No it’s not. It’s not a movie. It’s real life.” 

He squeezed me close to him. I slunk down in 
the seat, making myself as small as possible, and 
snuzzled my shoulder into his armpit. I should 
have shut my eyes, too, because in the next 
scene, carried away by their grief, Billy and 
Wyatt went off to a cathouse in New Orleans, 
picked up two hookers, and got zonked-out on 
acid in a graveyard right in the middle of the 
daytime. The camera did all kinds of weird 
things — zooming in and out, getting fuzzy, dis- 
torting the picture — trying to make it look like a 

real acid trip, I guess, and the girls took off all their clothes and danced naked 
in the graveyard. You could even see their black pubic hair. That was enough, 
right there, to send Brother Wilkins into orbit. 

“Is that what trips are really like, Tripp?” I whispered. 

“Kind of. As close as you can get it on film. Not bad. Whoever made this 
movie knew his stuff.” 

By the time we got out of the theater, I was wrung-out. I couldn’t believe 
that awful redneck with the disgusting wen on his neck just blew Dennis 
Hopper away like that for no good reason. I hoped the wen was cancer and 
his jaw would have to be amputated like poor old man Winston Coffey, who 
got cancer from dipping snuff and went through the last ten years of his life 
with no jaw, holding a handkerchief in front of his face to catch the spit and 
eating baby food that his daughter poured down his throat with a funnel. I 
know that it’s a sin to wish bad things on people, and I know, of course, it 
was just an actor in the movie, not a real man. I mean, obviously, I didn’t 
wish the actor to get cancer and lose his jaw, and maybe it was a fake wen 
anyhow, but ... oh, I don’t know what I wished. It was just all so real. Maybe 
I was still upset from my conversation with Mama, and the funeral and all. 

We headed out to the lake after the movie. I was really glad that Mama 
hadn’t gone with us. I don’t think she’s ready for something like that. Better 
to start her out on more Elvis movies, or Doris Day and Rock Hudson. 

“Penny?” Tripp asked as we drove down the road that ran by Baby’s house. 
Our windows were rolled down and the radio was playing “Let the Sunshine 



In.” I loved that song and turned it up really loud, since we weren’t near any 
railroad tracks. 

“What do you mean?” 

“A penny for your thoughts. You seem to be rolling some wheels in 
there.” 

“Sorry. I guess the movie got to me. It’s just ... I think that the world is 
full of an awful lot of hate-filled people. I mean, who were those guys 
hurting? Why should anybody care how long they wore their hair? It’s 
not fair.” 

“Nobody ever said it had to be fair.” 

We had pulled up to the edge of the water, about a mile past Baby’s 
house. It was, in fact, probably right about where they had found Carlene. 
Tripp killed the motor and flipped off the lights. It was real quiet. You 
could hear the frogs croaking and the crickets chirping. 

“Why did you come out here, Tripp? It’s creepy. I think it’s where 
they found Carlene.” 

“Is it? Are you sure?” 

“Pretty sure.” 

“Do you want to leave?” 

What was wrong with me tonight? He was going to think I was on the 
verge of a nervous breakdown or something. “1 don’t know.” 

He scooted the seat back and put his ami around me. I didn’t feel any 
easier. 

“I’ll tell you a story to get your mind off of the movie. Did you ever hear 
about the trapper and the hook?” he asked. 

“What do you mean?” 

“It’s a true story. Once upon a time in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas, 

there was a trapper who got his hand bit- 
ten dean off at the wrist by a wolf that 
was caught in one of his traps. He shot 
the wolf but was so weak from loss of 
blood that he couldn’t get home, and he 
lay there in a fever, beside the body of the 
wolf, hallucinating for two days before 
they came looking and found him. He was 
in the hospital out of his head for months, 
but he lived, and they made him a hook 
to replace the hand he had lost. 

“But the experience unhinged him, and 
he got crazier and crazier. He took to roam- 
ing the hills at night, and if he saw a car 
parked in the woods, he thought it was 
poachers after his traps and he would sneak 
up on the parkers and kill the boy and rape 
the girl. 

“One night, a couple went parking up there, and the girl had the jitters. 
She just felt like something wasn’t right. The guy didn’t want to leave, 
but the feeling she had kept getting stronger and stronger, until finally, 
practically in a panic, she made him gun the car and take off. When they 
got back to her house, he got out to open the door for her, and there, 
hanging on the car door handle was ...a hookl” 

He grabbed me at that moment and I screamed. 

“Tripp Barlow, I’m going to kill you!” He was laughing and dodging my 
fists, and then he opened the door trying to get away, and we fell out 
onto the ground. By then, I was laughing too. 

“You really are a nut. And of course I’ve heard that old story before — 
or a version of it. My great-grandma heard that story.” 

“Then why did you scream?” 

“Because I felt like it. Now, get me up off of this wet ground.” 

He pulled me up and the two of us leaned against the hood of the car, 
looking up at the sky and out over the dark lake. 

He reached into his pocket, pulled out a cigarette, and flicked his Zippo. 
The smoke smelled sweet and a little like alfalfa, but different. He wouldn’t 
... surely it wasn’t ... but it couldn’t be anything else. 

“Would you like to try a toke?” He held out the joint toward me. It was 
thin, and the tip glowed red in the dark. I began to tremble, but I tried not to 
let him see. I put my hands between my knees and pressed them together. 

PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 I PAGE 127 




is that marijuana?” 

"That's exactly what it is. Grass. 'Weed. Pot. Cannabis. A natural plant 
made by God. A gift from God to human beings. It’s as natural as tobacco — 
grows right in the same ground. And it's probably a lot better for you.” 

He took another drag, inhaled it, and held it in his lungs for a long mo- 
ment before he blew it out in a stream. Now I couldn’t hide it. I was shaking 
visibly. My hands were cold. I looked out at the dark shadows on the lake. It 
had to be right out there where they found Carlene. I was getting a little sick 
to my stomach. The smell from the smoke seemed to be making me light- 
headed. Anyway, something was. 

“Don't be scared. You know I wouldn’t do anything to hurt you. I just 
want you to feel as good as 1 do right now. I promise, it is not like dmgs. 

It's just a little wild weed. Straight from the earth.” 

I put my icy hands into my amipits to try and wami them up. This 
was crazy. I couldn’t believe I was out here in the presence of an actual 
marijuana joint. I should run as fast as 1 could to Baby's house. I’d be 
safe there. But part of me didn't want to — the same part that hated the 
rednecks and loved the hippies in Easy Rider. 

“1 don’t know how to smoke. I never tried it.” 

“Let me show you." He took a deep drag on the joint, then put his 
hand behind my head and pulled me into his amis. He leaned in to kiss me, 
and as my lips touched his, he breathed smoke into my mouth. I held my 
breath, then pulled away. Some of the smoke got into my mouth. 1 ex- 
haled as hard as 1 could, so it wouldn't get in my lungs. He seemed not to 
notice that I hadn't actually inhaled any smoke. 

"See, it's not so bad, is it?" He held out the joint toward me. "Here. You 
try it. You just put it between your lips and suck in. Breathe it all the way 
down into your lungs and then hold it for as long as you can.” 

There was a funny taste in my mouth. 1 looked up at the sky, half 
expecting to see a bolt of lightning coming down at my head, but it was 
clear. The stars hadn’t moved. Tripp was still holding the glowing joint 
out to me. Oh well. In for a penny, in for a pound. 



I took the joint from him with trembling fingers and put it to my lips. I 
sucked the hot smoke into my lungs. For about a second. Then my body 
rebelled and 1 started to cough. Deep, racking coughs. I couldn’t catch my 
breath. Tripp tried to pat me on the back, but he was making it worse. 

“No, get away from me!” 1 choked out the words and pushed him away. 
Leaning against the car bumper, I slowly got my wind back. I breathed sev- 
eral clear drafts of air, and then the strangest thing started to happen. My 
heart began to pound. 1 could feel the very blood pump through all its cham- 
bers into the veins and arteries, racing to the ends of my body, arms and 
legs, rounding the comers of my fingers and toes and climbing again to 
my heart. My whole body was beating like a giant heart. The air was 
so clear, the stars so bright. My heart beat faster and faster. It was 
going to run right out of my body. I must be dying. 

"Tripp! Take me to the hospital! 1 think I’m having a heart attack!” 
He started to laugh. He threw back his head and laughed and 
laughed. 

‘No, baby, you aren’t having a heart attack.” 

“I'm not dying?” 

“You’re getting high. Like nobody 1 ever saw before.” He put 
his amrs around me and held me tight. He must have felt my heart 
pounding, because he started to rub my back in slow, fimi circles. Nothing 
had ever felt as good as that back rub did. After a minute, I started to calm 
down. I did trust him. He wouldn’t let anything bad happen to me. 

Something new was starting. 1 was relaxing, my heart returning to 
nomial. 1 was so relaxed that 1 felt dreamy. It seemed like 1 could float. 
My amts floated up and went around Tripp’s neck. We kissed. A slow, 
wamt, friendly kiss that tasted like burnt fields and moonlight. 

Norris CIttirdi Alailer was raised in Arkansas and now lives on Caj’e Cod with 
her hnshand of twenty-five years, Norman Mailer. She's the mother of two sons 
and the stei’inother of five daughters and two sons. "Cherr\’/' is exceri’ted from her 
first hook, The Windchill Summer (Random House, 2000). 





Fall Arts Festival 2000 

September 22 - October 1 

lO Days O Nights 
of 

The Arts 



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PAGE 128 I PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 





YMCA NATIONAL WRITER’S 

VOICE 



a network of literary art centers 



y m c a s 



20TH ANNIVERSARY. 2001 



More than 25 YMCA Writer’s Voice centers across the country are meeting the particular needs of 
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funding initiatives, & training in the literary arts. 



YMCA NATIONAL READINGS TOUR 

Some of america’s most celebrated authors have recently joined the 9th Annual National 
Reading Tour for public readings & community activities («) select YMCA Writer’s Voice centers 

RICK BASS billings. mt 
CHRIS BOHJALIN silver bay.ny 
DIANE DIPRIMA detroit.mi 
LOUISE GLUCK phoenix. az 
DAVID MARKSON new york.ny 
DEVORAH MAJOR Wethersfield. ct 

YMCA WRITERS COMMUNITY 
WRITERS-IN-RESIDENCE 

Eight $5,500 awards have recently been presented to writers of literaryachievement & promise. 
These writers conduct master-level writing workshops & give public readings @ their host YMCA 

JENNIFER ARMSTRONG silver bay.ny 
JAMES BAKER HALL lexington.ky 
SIMON ORTIZ phoenix. az 
ALVIN AUBERT detroit.mi 
BUR TON HERSCH tampa 

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GARY EERGUSON bill ngsmt 
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We build stivng kids, stivng families, stivng communities. 





PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 I PAGE 129 




WILLIAM CORBETT 



Michael Mazur: Printer, Painter, 
Collaborator 




CANTO III. 1 993 FROM THE INFERNO OF DANTE 
PHOTO: DAVID AND LOUISE WEBBER 



T \ie appearance of Michael Mazur’s print ret 
respective, new paintings, and print collabo 
rations at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts is 
newsworthy because the MFA traditionally 
pays two levels of attention to Boston artists — 
scant and none. Showing Mazur as the millennium 
begins may signal a change in the MFA’s attitude. 
This is to be hoped for, and Mazur, if such a change 
comes to pass, is a worthy avatar. Over a long ca- 
reer he has produced beautiful work in a range of 
mediums, and the paintings, all done within the 
past year, proclaim that at age sixty-four, he is not 
finished yet. While the Museum’s shotgun menage 
a trois may confuse tliose new to Mazur’s art, ev- 
ery aspect of the show engages and rewards on its 
own temas. 

Ever)' retrospective has at least one vivid story 
line. In Mazur’s, organized by the Jane Voorhees 
Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers University, the 
artist acquires what Keats called “negative capa- 
bility,” the character to go beyond the resources 
and comforts of talent into realms of uncertainty 
and risk. During the mid-1950s, while an under- 
graduate at Amherst College, Mazur studied with 
Leonard Baskin, whose gaunt black prints seemed 
to be everywhere at the time. Mazur’s early wood 
engravings make clear the pupil’s ability to learn 
from the master. Also attracted to the work of 
Kathe Kollwitz and Max Beckmann, this is a tal- 
ented young artist who ably expresses his talent 
through a received vocabulary. The catalogue 
raisonne (it is a much juicer and user-friendly 
book than this dry title implies) tells the reader 
that during his apprentice years Mazur worked 
hard at his prints. He made his first one in 1956; 
five years later he made his one hundredth. It 
soon becomes apparent that Mazur is one of 
those driven artists for whom thinking is syn- 
onymous with doing. This is the perfect tem- 
perament for a printmaker whose art is based 
on process. He cannot step back and regard what 
he has done in the midst of doing it; he must 
finish what he starts. 

In 1965 Mazur completed his “Images from a 
Locked Ward” series, fourteen prints in all. Com- 
pelling images include the glowering The Corridor 
and the scarred, straining head in All the Work I Do 
Is ill My Neck, which keep company with the work 
of other writers and artists haunted by the mad- 
house at the time — Allen Ginsberg, Robert Lowell, 
Anne Sexton, Ken Kesey, and Diane Arbus. Until 
this point Mazur’s prints have been strong on line 
and shading. Here he creates expressive, empty, 
white space. From this point on, Mazur has worked 
in series as often as he could. He thrives on theme 
and variation which, again, seems perfect for 



printmaking, an art where new technical knowl- 
edge or inspiration prompts changes after a print 
is pulled. The series affords freedom. 

When Mazur discovered monotype in 1977 he 
began to exploit this freedom. He did so by ac- 
cepting what was outside his control. As the name 
monotype makes clear, there is but one print to be 
had. Usually. The second and third prints from the 
same plate are called “ghost impressions.” In these 
Mazur glimpsed what could be gained from allow- 
ing the process to have its say. Before going into 
detail 1 want to pause over the monotype Red Roller, 
1 977, a beautiful print on its own and, in my view, 
the place where Mazur started, albeit unwittingly, 
to assume Keats’s negative capability. 

The MFA placed Red Roller so that viewers saw 
it first upon entering the room that held Mazur’s 
early work. It may have been the curator’s way 
of saying that you are entering the past through 
the most significant of Mazur’s later paths. Red 
Roller is from the “Palette Still Life” series. There 
is a green film of ink above a band of sunset red. 
Below is a field of coal-black ink. The red roller 
sits with its fat, graspable handles in the fore- 
ground, eager to feel the artist’s grip, or the 
viewer’s, who imagines what it is to roll the ink 
over the plate. While not the color of blood, 
Mazur’s red implies the lifeblood of art, the al- 
lure and sustaining force of the work itself. As 
his show unfolded Mazur’s ink-slick roller be- 
came a key tool in monotypes with fresh and 
daring images. 

We first see these in the flower series, the night 
cyclamen and calla lilies of 1980. The catalog pre- 
sents, ei! face, Calla Lily # / and #2. The first is cold 
white lilies on a night ground, flowers of a frosty, 
haughty elegance. The background of the second 
is as gray as an overcast sky. Three of the lilies are 
now faded into memory, but the four at the center 
have golden stamens and greenish stems. Mazur’s 
work on what could have been a throw-away, in 
print lingo a “weakened” image, refreshed these 
lilies as art refreshes for us what we love, but lose, 
in the living. 

In 1983, Mazur, working with the master 
printer Robert Townsend, with whom he joined 
forces in 1977 and works to this day, exercised 
this new freedom by taking the risk of much larger 
scale. The “Wakeby DayAVakeby Night” triptychs, 
first shown at M.I.T., are over six feet long and 
four feet high. Wakeby Lake on Cape Cod is where 
the Mazur family then summered. Tall sunflowers 
bow their golden heads in the foreground. Behind 
them islands float in the lake, before a distant 
horizon of low hills and under a summer sky. In 
Wakeby Day II Mazur inset an angled rectangle of 




MICHAEL MAZUR WITH ROLLER, 1983 PHOTO; GREG HEINS 

night — daydreaming of the night to come or 
remembering last night — that carried over into the 
triptych’s right panel. In Wakeby Night a day 
rectangle occupies the same position. The night sky 
is a bluish dark, with a summer essence daylight 
dying into night, or morning blue coming on. 

To create these works Mazur began with a 
monotype ground. (The catalog has an excellent 
photo diary showing Mazur and Townsend at 
work on the plates that produced these monotypes. 
This is complemented by the catalog’s clearly writ- 
ten glossary of printmaking terms guaranteeing 
that the neophyte as well as the experienced 
viewer, like me, who can’t keep the terms straight 
will know how each print was made.) On top of 
the ground Mazur used other techniques: lithog- 
raphy, wood relief, and chine colie. This produced 
works of sweep ami close-up detail not usually 
associated with monotype’s inherent quickness. 
Mazur achieved a way to pause his method so that 
the viewer might dwell on lake and sky. 

Beginning in 1995 Mazur immersed himself in 
the series of prints that grew out of his trip to China 
in 1987. This series, which has gone through a 
dizzying number of permutations, has emerged 
simultaneously with his Chinese paintings, to my 
eye the best paintings he has ever done. In going 
from the prints to the paintings, Mazur has played 
a duet with himself. The Chinese prints are strings 
and woodwinds and the paintings, drums and 
brass. The print mediums of monotype, etching 
and acquatint, and lithograph, have yielded the 
scherzo of black lines and tremolos of muted colors. 
The prints are not as lush as the paintings, but in 
their depths they are still in a way that the 
paintings, where bombs of color go off, cannot be. 



Two different muses — fraternal not identical 
twins — are being served. 

Another series, Mazur’s monotypes for Robert 
Pinsky’s translation of Dante’s Iiifenio, have a long 
history. In 1956 Mazur interrupted his studies at 
Amherst to spend the year in Italy, in hindsight a 
decisive year in his formation as an artist. While 
visiting Florence he bought his first prints and 
learned Italian so that he could read Dante in the 
original. The catalog documents that in 1968 he 
made two prints, both “studies” for Cantos III and 
VIII of Dante’s htfemo. His passion for the poet 
surfaced again in 1992 when he began the collabo- 
ration with Pinsky that Farrar, Straus & Giroux 
published in 1994. Mazur’s prints, rich in menac- 
ing gloom, cold and ghostly, solid with the moral 
darkness of the 20th-century Western imagination, 
and yet ethereal, have been hailed as the Dante 
for our time. To this I can only add the memory of 
first seeing the prints tacked on the walls of 
Mazur’s Cambridge studio. He had invited a num- 
ber of people in to see them and we filled the room. 
I remember the thrill of rediscovering the poem 1 
had not read in years. To their quality as illustra- 
tions, Mazur added his reading of the poem, the 
wordless something aroused in him by Dante’s 
words, now made visible. 

Brigham’s soda fountain restaurants were once 
ubiquitous in the Boston area. If you ordered an 
ice cream cone you could have the ice cream rolled 
in chocolate sprinkles, “jimmies.” The MFA added 
jimmies to Mazur’s prints in the fomi of seven new 
paintings Mazur painted in a whirlwind for the 
show. In them he has freely and joyfully 
improvised on the landscape/mindscape Chinese 
themes that have occupied him for the past several 



years. These paintings have an abandon, a 
looseness of attack that is not about giving 
up control but accepting the rightness that 
going beyond control can bring — Keats’s 
negative capability again. The major painting 
is The Seasons, four five-foot-long panels 
beginning, where only the financial year 
begins, in summer, and surging into the new 
growth, the future that is spring. Time is the 
theme but there is nothing wistful about The 
Seasons. This is not time passing or past but 
time given material force, the river that can 
be stepped into endless times. The paintings 
are bold and filled with sky and earth 
passages of surpassing wild beauty. After the 
prints, the effect was like exiting out of the 
mouth of a cannon. 

Exiting, but not quite yet. The corridor 
that led away from the paintings was hung 
with prints by Yvonne Jacquette, David Tme, 
Fred Sandback, Gregory Gillespie, Joan Snyder, 
George McNeil, and others who collaborated with 
Mazur and Townsend at the New Provincetown 
Print Project. Mazur began this project in 1990 as 
a way to generate income for the Fine Arts Work 
Genter by publishing portfolios of prints by top 
artists. As I walked down the corridor 1 may have 
been the only viewer reminded of "The American 
Way Room,” which Mazur installed in a Gentral 
Square, Cambridge, storefront in 1968 during the 
Vietnam War. (The catalog has a single photograph 
of the room.) Various images from the war, most 
well- known now, but not so prominent then, were 
arranged for the propagandistic purpose of 
reminding the man and woman in the street that 
there was a war going on in their name. Of course, 
the exquisite work of Jacquette, Sandback, and 
True, to name the three that stood out for me, has 
nothing to do with the Vietnam War. Mazur is the 
link, his social conscience, once provoked by war, 
is now moved by the needs of artists and art. In 
typical energetic fashion he answered their call. 
Anyone who saw the Boston show, or experiences 
it through the catalog, will not be surprised that 
Mazur continues to exercise his faculties at large in 
a number of wide and various fields. One day 
another retrospective will take these all into account. 

Williain Corbett's most recent boohs are Boston 
Vermont (Zoland Books, 1999) ami John Raimondi 
Sculptor (Hudson Hiiis, 1999). He writes about art 
for Modem Painters and artsMEDIA. 



PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 I PAGE 131 



ANN WILSON LLOYD 



What I Saw at the 

Whitney 

IS THERE TOO MUCH ART OUT THERE? 

Or are there just are too many large, unfocused 
and themeless group exhibitions? These spectacles 
have become the art industry's equivalent of the 
convention and trade show — random, noisy, and 
populist in spirit, but more for the art industry than 
the culture at large. A critic of the Venice Biennale 
last season accused these proliferating shows of 
promoting “festival art," i.e. extravaganza-type 
displays or stunts of an art-crowd-shocking/ 
pleasing nature. Most insidious, though, is that 
curatorial competition for the new and 
undiscovered reduces art and artists to hot products 
du jour, overexposed for a few exhibition cycles, 
then dropped from the rosters and virtually 
unheard of again. But while critics everywhere 
seem to lament the haphazardness of these large 
shows, critics eveiyavhere also keep showing up 
and helping publicize them. And so, here, with 
my mea culpa, is my take on the 2000 Whitney 
Biennial. 

While the century-old Venice Biennale is the 
grande dame of the international surveys, the 
sevent\'-year-old Whitney is the forerunner of 
American shows. Up until ver\' recently, one had 
to be a bom or naturalized American citizen to be 
considered. Now the museum has acknowledged 
the art world's recent migratory nature; artists must 
only be "based" in the U.S. to be eligible, according 




INIGO MANGLANO OVALLE, 

LE BAI5ER/THE KISS 1999 

PHOTO COURTESY MAX PROTETCH GALLERY 




PAUL PFEIFFER, JOHN 3 16, 2000 

DIGITAL VIDEO STILL, PHOTO COURTESY: PS 1 



to the show's press release. (The temi “based,” by 
the way, is one of those interesting semantic 
attempts to obfuscate the art world's old nemesis 
of regionalism.) 

This year’s show, with its six guest curators 
“based” in different regions of the country, fea- 
tured ninety-seven artists. About half were repre- 
sented by Internet sites, films, and video works, 
presented at scheduled viewing tinaes. Fairly or not, 
I focused on physically present works available dur- 
ing the time I was able to spend at the show. 
Time-based works are, by default, simply less 
able to contend in a gallery setting, and perhaps 
should be reviewed by film or specialized new 
media critics. 

Among gallery-installed works, the show had a 
brokered feel to it, an “I'll give in on X, but only if 
we take Y" curatorial scenario, or perhaps reflected 
a consensual process where the middle ground, and 
nobody's first choice, most often won out. There 
was also a high degree of geographical correctness, 
favoring artists based elsewhere tlian New York, 
and heavily weighted toward Texas. Did any of the 
six curators (from California, Texas, Illinois, Con- 
necticut, and New York/Massachusetts) really go 
check out the art scene in say, 

Missouri, or Iowa, or North Dakota, one won- 
ders? Abstract painting was weakly represented, 
and nowhere near supported the Whitney’s claim 
of showcasing the best, or most recent develop- 
ments in art. Along witli some who seemed to have 
made the cut mainly through their various zip 
codes, there were a handful of those aforemen- 
tioned, predictable, artists du jour, like John Currin, 
the painter of cartoonish and needling figurative 
canvases, and Shirin Neshat, whose ubiquitous 
video installations of Islamic gender issues are look- 
ing a little forced. There were, as well, a few of 
these artists’ predecessors — artists who were once 
hot. but have since been dropped from the scene, 
like Louise Lawler. Her appropriation works — pho- 
tographs of an Andy Warhol wallpaper project 
shown recently at the Whitney — might have 
seemed clever in the high concept/ theoretical, art- 
about-art, end-game era of the mid-1980s, but it’s 
hardly the latest thing, as this exhibition purports 
to contain. And one more trivial quibble — why is 
it that nearly every recent edition of the show (at 
least five 1 can think of) has had a full-scale car 
sculpture? This year it was the girls’ turn, with Kim 
Dingle’s silly, gussied, pink sports car. Back in the 
1970s, or even in the all-agitprop show the 
Whitney put on a few seasons ago, this feminist 
strategy might have worked. Here and now, it just 
invites unflattering comparisons with recent, more 
clever vehicular expressions, like Nari Ward's jazzy 
hearse, or Charles Ray’s blown-up-to-life-size toy 
fire truck he parked in front of the Whitney a couple 
of biennials ago. 

Others have said it and I agree. This biennial 
would have been much more interesting if cura- 
tors had had the courage to choose and separately 
install their own shows, and if art, rather than ge- 
ography, had been the main criteria. That said, a 
few works did make the show worthwhile — Petah 
Coyne’s large wall relief, and video installations by 
Paul Pfeiffer and Inigo Manglano-Ovalle. 



Coyne’s quietly massive, free-standing wall re- 
lief, Jiiliiuui ami Gertrmk, is, from the approach 
side, a large, thick, and seamless plaster block of 
polished, milky, marble-like opaqueness — save 
for two sharply fluted cone-like forms that 
started high on either end. These pleated flows 
are of the same hard nacreous-looking material as 
the wall, and despite their crisp precision, suggest 
marble drapery or veils, as if the fabric is caught 
up near the top of the wall, threaded through an 
aperture and then allowed to fan out to the floor. 
Coyne’s faux sculptural wall was positioned near 
enough to the real gallery wall to fomi a dim, nar- 
row corridor on the backside of the piece. Here 
was revealed the source of the flowing veils, as 
well as the work’s structural artifice. Embedded 
within the plaster and exposed amiature are two 
nearly life-size found-object religious statues of the 
Virgin Mary. 

This work may seem a departure from Coyne’s 
best-known works, the extravagantly decadent. 
Miss Haversham-inspired, hanging, white, 
dripped-wax works, or tlie glitteringly sinister black 
tuber-like structures of coarse wire mesh and abra- 
sive industrial grit, which also hang from the ceil- 
ing. But Coyne’s works preceding this new relief 
are smaller religious statues caught up in tangles 
of black hair, and some of Coyne’s earliest works 
contain overt references to the Catholic Church. 
One very early public art piece was a billboard- 
sized cutout of a nun, placed on a lethal curve of a 
busy expressway, and unexpectedly championed 
by residents of a nearby convent. In Coyne’s mind 
the work was a humorous critique, but the Catho- 
lic establishment saw it as homage and awarded 
her an artist’s residency at a seminary in Rome. 
The same interplay of ambiguous components — 
homage/critique; obsessive, even overblown, 
beauty; gorgeous, ominous physicality, and her 
always knowing, up front theatricality — is also 
present in Juliana ami GeHrmle. The spirit of this 
piece is muffled and entombed, disguised by arti- 
fice beneath a highly polished surface. 

Paul Pfeiffer is a discovery of both the Whitney 
and the curators who put together the concurrent 
“Greater New York” show at the P.S. 1 exhibition 
space, across the East River. (An aside here about 
this surprise first-time appearance of another large 
survey show, automatically taken as the Whitrrey’s 
rival; It too was chosen by a team of curators, from 
the staffs of P.S. 1 and the Museum of Modem 
Art, which has recently enveloped within its man- 
agement this outpost contemporary art space 
housed in a nostalgically decrepit city school house. 
A hundred and forty or so mostly little-known art- 
ists from the five boroughs of New York were fea- 
tured, with rollicking results that made the 
Whitney show look even more humdrum. To the 
further detriment of the Whitney’s efforts, there 
were only six overlaps between the shows, but, 
luckily, Pfeiffer was one of them. The Whitney also 
chose him winner of a newly established cash prize 
for best artist in the Biennial.) 

Pfeiffer’s small, one-viewer-at-a-time video pro- 
jections are the result of prodigious editing of 
broadcast clips, thus isolating one action, as in Frag- 
ments of a Gnidfixion (After Francis Bacon). In it a 
basketball player prances in an endless rage, his 



PAUL 132 I PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 




face contorted in a Bacon-esque primal howl, while 
behind him, flash bulbs pop in the stands of a 
crowded arena. There is no audio, and any identi- 
fying details, like team logos or advertising, have 
been edited out. The result is mesmerizing, reveal- 
ing much about the medium, about context, and 
about truth, in and out of context. Pfeiffer is one 
of few in the growing legions of video artists who 
have cracked video’s genetic code and employed 
its integral aspects, making art that could only be 
made by video. 

At P.S. 1, an equally astonishing Pfeiffer piece 
isolates multiple spinning basketballs in play, su- 
perimposing one upon another within the same, 
nearly frame-filling range, with backgrounds 
flickering behind the image at subliminal speeds. 
The title here— John 3:16 — also has religious con- 
notations, a metaphor, one presumes, for our 
latter day religion of sports. But one doesn’t have 
to know the allusion to “For God so loved the 
world ...,” to see the nervously spinning ball as a 
whirling planet in a chaotic, unreadable universe. 

The last piece I would have hated to miss is Le 
Baiser/The Kiss by Inigo Manglano-Ovalle, but it’s 
power is hard to put your finger on. It too is a 
projected video piece, but visible from both sides 
of a large screen that bisects the rectangular gal- 
lery. On the screen is an immediately engaging, 
lush, wide-angled view of a life-size scene, show- 
ing a plate glass window wall of a modem-style 
building. A window washer squeegees away at 
these windows. An audio soundtrack carries the 
familiar squeaking and sucking sounds made by 
the tools of the trade. Inside the building, a woman 
stands, wearing a headset and absorbed in some- 
thing technical. A real headset hangs on the gal- 
lery wall, and through it, one could presumably 
hear the same thing she was hearing, an electric 
guitar playing rock. That’s all there is, except for a 
thin metal railing suspended around the room’s 
perimeter, forming both a sculptural presence and 
a functional barrier. 

These minimalist components are of a scale pre- 
cisely tuned, and the piece emits a benign kind of 
suspense, where not much happens but the possi- 
bility is there. The wall text reveals that the win- 
dow washer is actually the artist; that the house is 
the famous 1950-era, all-glass Farnsworth house by 
Mies van der Rohe (the only residence the architect 
designed in the U.S.); that the railing around the 
screen is in the same dimensions as the house’s foot- 
print, and that the music on the headset is a remix 
of a solo originally recorded by the rock band Kiss. 

All this is conceptually enriching, but extrane- 
ous to the satisfying physical experience of the 
piece. Because on its own, it, like the work of 
the other two artists described above, met art’s 
ultimate criteria, which should be the single cri- 
teria for art in this and any exhibition — that there 
be present a mysterious intelligence, multiple and 
universal truths, and infinite complexities, regard- 
less of other qualifying factors. 

Ann Wilson Lloyd is an independent critic who writes 
for the New York Times, Art in America and other 
publications. She first wrote for Provincetown Arts 
in 1989, and credits Provincetown and its arts 
community with instigating her art writing career. 



«£ 



PETAH COYNE, UNTITLED #978 (DETAIL), 1999-2000 PHOTO WIT MCKAY 




PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 I PAGE 133 



CHRISTOPHER BUSA 



The Aerial 



T ony Vevers’ retrospective this summer at the 
Provincetown Art Association and Museum 
shows how he developed from a young art- 
ist painting on canvas to a mature artist who 
found a way to translate the idiom of paint into 
the literal medium of earth materials. “If any 
aspect of my work has evolved,” Vevers told me 
a few years ago, “it is not applying paint to two- 
dimensional surfaces, but in making construc- 
tions and assemblages. 1 used to be a carpenter. I 
like using tools. I can produce three-dimensional 
work that is very satisfying, perhaps because it 
is more real to me." 

Vevers was bom in London and spent much 
of his childhood in the English countryside at 
Whipsnade, where his father, the director of the 
London Zoo, kept open fields of buffalo and ze- 
bras. When Hitler rose to power and began to 
bomb England in the Blitz, Vevers and his sister 
came to stay with friends in the U.S. for the 
duration of the war. He attended a private board- 
ing school, Hotchkiss, on a scholarship. Shortly 
after settling down in his new environment, he 
went to the art room and checked out paint, 
paper, and bmshes. He got up early before school 
and went out to paint a lake with mountains in 
the background. Einally his baish broke, but only 
after the weather changed and it became too cold 
to paint outdoors. He knew one thing: in this 
life he would become a painter. 

After graduation he was drafted into the 
Army, serving in the occupation forces at the 
end of the war. He made pencil sketches of the 
devastation he saw in Europe. "Bonn,” he wrote 
in a memoir, "was a ruined city, bombed and 
blasted to rubble.” A later painting, Disj’laccd 
Person, is testimony to the hallucination of hor- 
ror that is the odyssey of stateless people, for 
whom returning home to nothing was the equal 
of an aimless exile. 

While scr\'ing in the Anny of Occupation, he 
got furloughs to visit his father and stepmother 
in England. After the war he attended Yale Uni- 
versity on the G.l. Bill, taking studio courses at 
the Yale School of Art. He drew from a traveling 
circuit of models who made their way up the 
East Coast from New York to Boston. A model 
would hold the same pose for a week. In many 
of the drawings the figure sits or rests a leg on a 
stool, and the light comes so sharply from one 
side that the figure often seems divided. These 
life drawings show a rapt interest in bone and 
muscle, hands and feet. They help us see how 
Vevers. in his late constructions, reflects on the 
relation between the figure and its frame. 



erspective of Tony Vevers 



following graduation in 1950, he reunited with 
his family, spending academic winters in Italy and 
two holiday summers in England. One painting of 
this period, Liin^arno, is an elegy to Elorence. The 
river Amo, dividing the city, is at the bottom of 
the canvas, a thick black pulse of poetry where 
the rhythm is scanned in five sharp strokes, bent 
smoothly as they twist. The meandering river is a 
base from which half the city rises in a series of 
rolling hills. The bulging fomis breathe like lungs; 
they are Vevers’ summation of a year and a half of 
looking, a total image of the landscape around the 
city, fields, vineyards, and orchards of olive and 
almond trees become essentialized into mellow 
shapes that cluster and jostle together, shameless 
and joyous. Colors are cloud-like, light-filled, soft 
and muted. Trees bristle like stiff hair on the dis- 
tant rim of one of the higher mountains. Vevers 
builds his vista with forgiving borders, blurred and 
misty, yet integrated, as if his elements were con- 
nected by what separated them. In this profoundly 
satisfying painting, Vevers seems compelled by the 
concept of a comprehensive point of view rather 
than a single focal point on a horizon. Vevers was 
trying to understand Cezanne in a florentine set- 
ting, putting in as many viewpoints as possible, 
while acknowledging the soft painterly quality 
of Giorgione’s La TaujK'sta, also a major influence. 

Returning to New York, Vevers studied with 
Hans Hofmann for six months. He wrestled with 
the dirty colors of the city. He had no palette 
for asphalt and soot. Influenced by Franz Kline, 
he soon began painting in black and white, with 
fierce and jagged clashes at the edges. He did 
about twenty paintings in black and white; think- 
ing they were not successful, he destroyed them, 
a decision he now regrets. At the Cedar Bar and 
the Club, which Vevers frequented, the ideologi- 
cal arguments centered on Abstract Expressionism. 
He went to the opening of de Koonings’ “Women” 
series, where the bared teeth of a female demon 
flashed through agitated washes of color. Vevers 
was amazed to see how de Kooning was criticized 
for the base act of incorporating a figurative refer- 
ence into an abstract painting. 

He spent the summer of ’53 in Maine, painting 
watercolors on tiny Monhegan Island with a friend, 
the painter Steve Pace, whom he had met in Flo- 
rence. He was reminded of the natural colors of 
Italy. During the summer he met Elspeth 
Halvorsen, whom he married in the fall. They 
set up house on Delancey Street on the Lower 
East Side; living romantically in a cold-water loft, 
they somehow managed to heat the water. 
Halvorsen had taken art history courses with 
Meyer Shapiro at the New School and painted at 
the Art Students League with Julian Levy. Vevers 
began exhibiting at the City Center Gallery and 
Gallery East. 



In 1955 he began showing in group shows at 
the Tanager Gallery, an artists’ cooperative, and 
a model for Long Point Gallery, the cooperative 
he would co-found in Provincetown. At the time, 
he had a job working at City Center on West 
54th Street. He took the elevated train uptown, 
then walked through Central Park to get to work. 
Daily, he felt a need to be in nature. One painting 
of this period, Lwdscajv 11, shows the park in win- 
ter, with black rocks jutting out of the snow. The 
vegetation is forlorn, yet does not look dead. This 
is when Vevers started thinking about leaving New 
York and moving to the country. 

On Easter Day, 1955, he and Halvorsen 
walked across the Williamsburg Bridge. He came 
back elated. Spontaneously he painted his first 
figurative painting, Easter Nude. The heavy 
impasto of the paint seems pressed into thick 
flower petals that yield into a languid shape. 
Unlike de Kooning, Vevers was not trying to be 
audacious; he refrained from showing the paint- 
ings. Whereas de Kooning is abstract, Vevers is 
realistic. The nude was simply the image Vevers 
was trying to make. 

He and Halvorsen moved to Provincetown, 
needing nature, knowing geography forms 
people. Besides, they felt they might be better 
off being poor in Provincetown than poor in New 
York. Tony supported the family by doing car- 
pentry during the summer. He did most of his 
painting in the winter, a season that recurs often 
in paintings of this period. 

When his friend Jan Muller died in January 
1958, Vevers made six or eight studies for the 
elegiac painting, Fuiteml in the Snow, which was 
eventually purchased by Joseph Hirshhom. Vevers 
had seen young people die in the Amiy, but he 
didn’t expect artists to die young. Muller had 
come to the U.S. to study with Hofmann, with 
whom he could speak in their native German. 
He had a heart ailment and was fitted with a 
plastic valve that audibly thumped in his chest; 
the valve gave out as the doctors had warned it 
would if he continued to paint. 

Fnnentl in the Snow exemplifies Vevers’ classic 
idiom: large, elongated figures, with obscured, 
Rothkoesque edges. Faces are without features. 
There are a dozen mourners with their heads 
bowed, shrouded in black while standing in pris- 
tine white snow. Vevers was present at the Truro 
cemetery, but he does not depict himself. Instead, 
he takes the same point of view as the viewer. The 
tall, bearded figure on the right is recognizably Paul 
Resika. At the time Vevers did not know Resika, 
but years later Resika mentioned that he had been 
at the funeral. Next to the minister on the far right 
is the artist’s widow, Dody Muller, bending to place 
a flower on the grave. A1 Leslie was also at the 
ceremony, Vevers remembers. At the conclusion. 



PAGE 134 I PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 



just as the minister finished reading his lines, sun 
broke through the clouds. That was the “magic 
moment” that Vevers tried to capture on canvas. 
Later they all went to Myron Stout’s place on 
Brewster Street for drinks and consolation. 

That summer Vevers had his first one-man 
show at the Sun Gallery in Provincetown. He 
showed large paintings of simple figures eternally 
laboring, like a lone clam digger at low tide, di- 
minutive on acres of sand flats. Two years later 
Milton Avery chose one of Vevers’ works. Ah, 
Winter, for a show at the National Arts Club in 
New York, curated by older artists choosing 
younger artists. Vevers continued to explore how 
an abstract painting could express concrete feel- 
ing. He admired the casual brushy-ness of Avery, 
with large expanses of dry color and rolling con- 
tours that give off an aura along their edges. 

In the early '60s Vevers accepted a position 
teaching art at the University of North Carolina at 
Greensboro. His painting. Transition, with its mul- 
tiple scenarios, is an autobiographical narrative. Yet 
the formal idea came from a trip to the National 
Gallery in Washington. There he was very taken 
by a Byzantine painting encircled with smaller 
scenes that were related to the central image, a cycle 
of complementaiy narratives that enrich the primary 
narrative. Thus he began to make paintings with 
multiple images, rather than single images. He once 
remarked to me, “Whenever you make a transition, 
you must reduce the issue to a few elements. To 
see what you are doing, there is a need to simplify.” 
During transitions, he believes it is natural for art- 
ists to become minimal in order to balance the old 
and the new. 

Vevers had begun to spend a portion of the 
winter in Mexico, he and Halvorsen staying with 
her mother and stepfather, the sculptor Dudley 
Pratt. The couple would return to San Miguel de 
Allende for twenty years. Here he discovered earth 
as a medium, using it with increasing sophistication 
as he began to understand the gripping power of 
acrylic medium mixed with fine dark river sand 
inflected with flint-like specks of silica. When 
Vevers accepted a second teaching position at 
Purdue University, he began making sand paintings 
that referenced the Indiana farmlands, and 
especially the Wabash River, which flooded every 
spring. Vevers became fascinated with aerial 
photographs of the floods, published in the local 
paper. He began to consider how aerial views 
eliminate depth perception while views on land 
incorporate intervening objects to provide clues to 
depth. One work about the Wabash, which Vevers 
did in 1973, makes use of colored strips of cloth 
tom from abandoned canvasses. Working on a 
wide table, he found a way to layer the present 
with rifts of the past. 

Nat Halper closed the HCE Gallery in the early 
’70s and used the space simply as a storeroom. 
Wanting to show his current work, but without a 
gallery, Vevers rented it for two weeks in the 
summer of '73, paying Halper $100, using his 
gallery furniture, his desk, and his lights. In 1975 
he did the same thing at the Tennis Glub, renting 
the airy second floor room that became the Group 
Gallery and, currently, DNA Gallery. Some of the 
artists who were to form Long Point Gallery 




LEONARDO, 1992 



attended. Vevers sponsored these shows himself. 
The artist Judith Rothschild and the collectors Bill 
Brill and Hilary Masters bought paintings. Vevers 
succeeded in paying the rent and the advertising. 
Other artists became attracted by the idea that an 
artist could take control of his own exhibitions. 
Of course, no one has gotten rich or famous from 
a cooperative gallery — ’’There’s no Castelli pushing 
you!” Vevers told me in 1990 when I interviewed 
him for the Provincetown Arts cover story on Long 
Point. He was sixty-four. But he believed for an 
artist like himself, who is not in the New York 
mainstream, that Long Point was a “great 
alternative.” He felt like he was just beginning and 
he said, “Hopefully, you always feel that way.” 

The ’70s were a period of consolidation and 
clarification for Vevers. His production slowed, 
but his resolve intensified. Vevers hardly knew 
some of the artists who would join him in form- 
ing Long Point Gallery at the end of the decade, 
but others, Bultman, Manso, and Motherwell, 
all of whom made collages, Vevers knew well. 
Aerial landscapes made with earth material domi- 
nated this decade; he represented natural bound- 
aries — rivers and trees, hills and valleys, divided 
plots of land. He kept asking himself, especially 
when he flew seasonally back to the Gape, look- 
ing out the window of the plane, “How does a 
human, with the armspan of two yards, embrace 
the vast landscape?” 

Vevers had meditated on da Vinci’s drawing 
of the human figure in a circle and a square, as a 
way of analyzing the body. Vevers had always 
been interested in the connection between ge- 
ometry and corporal proportion. The frame does 
not necessarily surround the body, but may have 
an expressive function in its measurement of the 
body. Long Point Gallery put on a theme show, 
asking its artists to produce work in square for- 
mats. At the time, tanks took over Tiananmen 
Square in China; in protest of the closing in upon 
the individual, Vevers imprisoned a small figure 
helplessly within a series of squares that decrease 
in size even as they echo the four edges of the 
frame. About the entrapping power of this shape, 
in which no side is dominant, Sidney Simon, 
Vevers’ colleague at Long Point, said, “The four 



sides tend to be stronger than anything you can 
put inside.” 

In the context of the square, Vevers saw the 
power of the circle. The boldness of the square 
came from the fact that it was the only quadri- 
lateral in which a circle can be drawn that 
touches all four sides. The intimate romantic 
dialogue between the circle and the square be- 
gan to remind Vevers of his marriage. He pointed 
out that if his work is earth-bound, Halvorsen’s is 
celestial. He looks down at the ground; she looks 
up at the sky. 

Some of the late works in this retrospective 
are drawn from the “Tide” series. Using sand, 
strips of canvas, strands of rope, Vevers created 
a pair of witty and profound abstract portraits. 
Perigee is titled after the nearest point of orbit 
between a satellite and a planet. Af’ogee refers to 
the farthest point of orbit between a satellite 
and a planet. Perigee possesses an unraveling rope 
that winds through a hole in the frame at the 
bottom, where it is allowed to sway freely. The 
rope in Aj’ogee burrows beneath the ground, rup- 
turing the surface. 

Between the extremes of the low and high wa- 
termarks, the tide records its ebb and flow with 
wavy lines of seaweed, punctuated with flotsam. 
Vevers loves to wander in the horizontal strip of 
fresh-washed sand, between sea and shore, that 
recurs every six hours. Likewise the line in his work 
may be characterized by its easy lope. It meanders 
and moves like a finger of water feeling its way. It 
remains responsive to actual topography, as if the 
painter’s eye had traveled over the very terrain it 
traces. Thus beachcombing, for Vevers, is less a 
meditation than an action integral to the making of 
art. He is drawn to pick up leather soles, discarded 
years ago by an elderly Portuguese cobbler who had 
a shop on the east side of the wharf and disposed of 
what he didn’t want on the beach. He is drawn 
also to pick up Styrofoam fishing buoys pockmarked 
like skull-shaped asteroids, as well as stray strands 
of nautical rope. These manmade pieces are inflected 
with colors that have become at one with their en- 
vironment — straw-gold, sky blue, teeth white, 
blood red, and subtle shades of sea-green. The hu- 
man debris that attracts Vevers seems to have been 
created by nature. 

Another pair from this series. Tides I and Tides II, 
is an arrangement of ropes, each spanning the width 
of the canvas. They divide the ground horizontally, 
like old lines of linotype, or like a well-designed 
marine chart showing in a glance the small varia- 
tions in a week of high tides. These billboard-sized 
works have a magisterial, public presence. They look 
as timeworn as parchment scrolls, written with an 
ancient, inscrutable alphabet that proclaims a com- 
munal truth. I am reminded of the esthetic of Long 
Point Gallery, where thirteen artists shared a com- 
mon space. Periodically, to pay the rent, they pro- 
duced a silkscreen print, a collaborative project 
with each artist having some, relatively equal, area 
of the format where their own image could 
breathe. 

Christofdter Bnsa writes on the artist Carmen Cicero 
elsewhere in this issue. 



PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 I PAGE 135 



THAT EXISTENTIAL STARE. 1990 



TRACER OF LOST PERSONS, 1997 



CHRISTOPHER BUSA 



Carmen Cicero: "That Existential Stare" 



C armen Cicero is a veteran painter who dis- 
tinguished himself as an Abstract Expression- 
ist in the early ’50s, then went on to be one 
of the leaders of Figuradve Expressionism in the 
late '50s. Cicero's stormy career, surveyed this 
summer in a retrospective at the Provincetown Art 
Association and Museum, tells us why an artist 
can only stay free of the past by forging ahead. 

Before a devastating studio fire in 1971 
destroyed a decade of his first mature work, Cicero 
had received two Guggenheim Fellowships in 
painting. Tire Ford Foundation Purchase Prize had 
accjuired two works. The Guggenheim, the 
Museum of Modern Art, and the Whitney also 
acquired his work. (He is currently represented 
in twenty-five museum collections.) He had had 
five one-man shows at the Peridot Gallery. He 
had been in six Whitney Annuals, almost 
sequentially. He had studied with Robert 
Motherwell as a graduate student at Hunter and 
then taught at Sarah Fawrence. A talented jazz 
musician, he played the saxophone well enough 
to play with the best, and did. 

Three paintings survive the fire of 1971, 
including a self-portrait that echoes what he calls 
"those primordial human instincts,” naming them 
exactly as “sex, race, and violence.” The mix of 



these themes led Cicero to a conscious vision 
expressed in one haunted painting titled Tlmt 
Existential Stare. Childlike in its graphic directness, 
it depicts the hour of the wolf, twilight, where color 
vision gives way to the silver grays of night vision. 
What is scary is that, though no people are present, 
the mask of the animal may be the face of the artist. 
Shortly after Cicero’s disaster, Norman Mailer 
wrote a famous essay, “Superman Comes to 
Supemiarket,” unwittingly illuminating Cicero’s 
pilgrimage from soft humor to hard cartoon. Since 
then, with hindsight, we know that journalism is 
to fiction what the cartoon is to art. Cicero, in 
making a cartoon out of a nightmare, turned the 
cartoon into art. 

Cicero was forty-five years old when he 
returned home, on a winter evening, to the carriage 
house he was renting in an elegant New Jersey 
neighborhood. His living quarters were upstairs 
and his studio was below. Coming up the street, 
he heard some commotion. He saw police cars 
with strobe lights flashing. He wondered about a 
robbery. Then he saw fire engines. Whose house 
was on fire? Why, it was his house. The timbers 
were charred and smoldering, the metal beams 
were melted and twisted. Gone were his musical 
instruments, his hi-fi, and his hundreds of records. 
Gone, too, were forty expressionist paintings that 
he had worked on for years. Gone were the 



thumbed pages of his 300 art books. Gone, 
tragically, was the fifteen-by-eight inch drawing 
in five crayon colors that Miro had inscribed to him, 
affectionately, following their joint inclusion in the 
“Inaugural Show” of the Guggenheim Museum. 
Cezanne, Picasso, and Miro were in the show; Miro 
told James Johnson Sweeney that he thought Cicero 
was one of the best artists he’d seen in America. 

When he moved into a loft on the Bowery in 
New York’s Fower East Side, Cicero kept telling 
himself that his pain was an opportunity for 
complete change. The fire was a mythological 
event that he tried to minimize in his mind. In a 
robotic, syllable-at-a-time voice, he told himself 
that he would buckle down and recover that which 
he had lost. He rarely talks about the extreme 
irritation he felt as he became known as one of the 
followers of Figurative Expressionism, rather than 
one of its avant garde. Cicero could not prove his 
provenance. He had no evidence. So he set to work. 

Figurative Expression was underway with the 
support of passionate dealers: Brooke Alexander, 
Ivan Karp, David McKee, Marisa Del Rey. Then 
Berta Walker came on the scene as the director of 
the Graham Gallery, and her enthusiasm convinced 
him to join the gallery. (Cicero’s painting, Portuguese 
Princess, shows a hardy bather with a blush on her 
face; asked if the princess were Berta Walker, 
Cicero said, “She could be.”) 



PAGE !36 I PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 




When Cicero’s father died of cancer, he made a 
painting of a man dying of cancer. Here he saw 
that what we call neo-expression is when pop 
culture becomes part of the expression. This made 
Pop real. Cicero’s motifs — the moon, the car, the 
female, the crazed and menaced stranger — 
become apocalyptic moments telescoped through 
the perspective of a single person. Whole cities, 
the distant buildings as diminutive as toys, are 
the backdrop for the personal angst of Cicero’s 
cast of characters — a grinning skeleton hailing a 
taxi at sunrise, a German art critic wearing a blue 
mask instead of a face, a man running scared 
down an empty city sidewalk, the white moon 
in relentless pursuit. 

The motif most people ask Cicero about is the 
moon, looming eternally in so many of his 
paintings. He concedes there is a possible 
connection between his crescent moons, shaped 
like the letter C, and his initials. The waning moon 
becomes his signature (the new moon faces in the 
opposite direction). The painter Mary Hackett told 
the poet Michael Burkard that the way to tell the 
new moon from the old moon was to remember 
that the old moon forms the letter C, as in “see 
you later.” A less parabolic explanation might be 
that the moon sets up a tension, acting as a pivotal 
point of high compositional significance — where 
it is placed, how it is placed. As Yeats said, things 
seen by the light of the moon can be brighter than 
the prosaic light of day. Cicero told me, “The 
crescent moon is poetry, visual poetry.” 

Cicero thinks of the creative process as one of 
searching and destroying. He destroys what he 
finds. He paints abstract forms until a figurative 
element emerges that reveals information from his 
unconscious. He remembers his teacher Robert 
Motherwell telling him that his line was suave, 
fluid, and elegant. It was neither a compliment nor 
the opposite, but it convinced Cicero that he did 
not want to be described as suave and elegant. He 
knew that when one became smooth and “played 
pretty for the people,” as one musician put it, the 
art would not be heartfelt. 

Cicero realized that the figure in his paintings — 
often fleeing, warning, and shouting — was himself. 
In his visionary recent works, we see the re- 
occurring man wearing a fedora and driving a 
nondescript car from the past, or walking on a 
segment of road that will only be replaced with 
another segment, or watching the flight of a single- 
engine plane with an open cockpit that is empty 
of a guiding pilot. The painted character, 
reinventing Cicero’s autobiography, goes from 
frame to frame in the form of a cartoon, a metaphor 
for the self in transit. If most of the images are at 
night, they are only enhanced by what limited 
source of light is shining. The headlights of the 
antique car, like the limitations of consciousness, 
probe a dirt path in the woods, vigilant with “that 
existential stare,” even as the narrow way is 
surrounded by darkness. 

Christo[4ier Busa reviews the jHiotograf’lts of 
Al Wassennan elsewhere in this issue. 



AMg 

Albert Merola gallery 

2000 

Representing: 

Fritz Buitman 
Peter Busa 
Ann Chernow 
Mary Hackett 
Lester Johnson 
Bill Mead 
Jack Pierson 
Ferenc Suto 
William Wood 
Frank Yamrus 

Our 1 3th year representing the finest of contemporary and 
historically significant Provincetown affiliated artists. 
Picasso Ceramics • Fine Prints • Artist Books 

424 Commercial Street • Provincetown, MA 02657 
tel: 508-487-4424 / fax: 508-487-4743 
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One Person Shows: 
Greg Warnke 
Donna Flax 
Helen Miranda 
Wilson 
Duane Slick 
James Balia 
Richard Baker 
Special Shows: 
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John Waters 

Greg Warnke: “Pepsi" 1999-2000 Sallyann WekStein 

gelatin silver print ■' 





kahn/selesnick 

is represented by Pepper Gallery 



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38 Newbury Street 
Boston, MA 02116 
617.236.4497 FAX 61 7.266.4492 



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www.peppergalleryboston.com 



PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 I PAGE 137 




KATHE IZZO, ME (MYSELF) SHAPED HOLE. 1999 
THE C-SCAPE DUNE SHACK 



JOHN SLYCE 



H anging on my grandmother's wall in her sit- 
ting room is a wooden plaque with the 
chiseled inscription: "The Cape, The Cod, The 
Constant Sea." It was acquired, sometime in the 
early 1960s, as a tourist trinket — a reminder of 
place, a passing moment, and an experience. That 
plaque has been installed in her various houses for 
as long as 1 can remember. It has traveled from its 
ongins on the Cape, to Ohio, then Maine, back to 
Ohio, then Florida, and finally back to Maine. It’s 
getting ready to move again, its next stop still to 
be dctemiined. Clustered around this plaque is an 
assortment of metaphors: a painting of a sea 



captain made by a very young Tom Till; small 
wooden fishing boats — great fleets of which depart 
in the end-of-season bags and trunks of the tourists; 
a jar filled with some sand; and a collage of broken 
plates and ceramic shards my grandmother made 
from the 19th-century treasures that once washed 
up onto Provincetown’s beaches. The scene is an 
installation that takes on meaning through the 
experience of the viewer and visitor alike. Perhaps 
what most makes the wall assemblage seem an 
installation is that, rather than merely occupying 
a designated space, it actually constitutes that place. 
Wherever my grandmother and her plaque are 



installed — even in the remove of northwestern 
Maine — the Cape is there, with its cod and 
constant sea. 

We are all installation artists. Our homes, our 
gardens, our closets, shelves, and drawers — each 
is a site colonized by the made-ready materials of 
the consumerist world that surrounds and the 
artifacts we assemble in a life of both knowing 
and unknowing collecting. Installation and video 
are the dominant presentational forms in 
contemporary art — the sprawling video install- 
ation, released from the frame of a monitor, is in 
fact so well enshrined as to be conventional. Yet 




JENNY HUMPHREYS, BIRDFEEDER, 1999 
LAWN OF THE PROVINCETOWN ART ASSOCIATION 




PAG; 1 38 I PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 







for many, installation is a remote form and a 
confusing vessel that too often generates the rueful 
query: “But is it art?” This question is generally 
directed at the materials employed in a work. Art 
these days doesn’t offer a fixed point of view to a 
viewer, thus the ingredients for material definitions 
are missing. What is there is the possibility of an 
experience — the meaning of which is made in the 
encounter. If you have to ask the question, “Is it 
art?” then you haven’t so much missed something, 
as forgotten, or failed to contribute your bit to 
the work. 



JAY CRITCHLEY, 

JUST VISITING FOR 
THE WEEKEND, 1981 
MACMILLAN 
PARKING LOT 



For me, the most all-embracing installation on 
the lower Cape is its remarkable natural light. This 
site-specific phenomenon generates a complex of 
its own spread across work, play, and place — all 
shot through with time. Installation once refered 
solely to how an exhibition was hung, and thus 
shares a relation to how painting once occupied 
space in a gallery. At the same time the term 
borrows from the concepts and practices of 
assemblage, the creation of environments, and 
staging of happenings. Distant theatrical origins 
still resonate in many installations. In a confluence 
of theater and spectacle, the installation breaks 



SAL RANDOLPH, FREE SHOW (BEFORE) 
& FREE SHOW (AFTER) (DETAILS), 1 999 
THE SCHOOLHOUSE CENTER 



open the normal container for art — the gallery — 
and lets the social world in. Art then enters the 
space of life in return. For those installations that 
take place in an art space, the gallery becomes a 
place to experience experience. In looking around 
you this season, don’t so much look at the content, 
try to appreciate the context — more often than not, 
therein lies the art. This is tme of the Cape’s sunsets 
and also its installations. 

John Slyce is a writer and critic based in London, 
England. As a boy, he lived for awhile in 
Provincetown and now visits Truro when he is able 
with his fmrtner, Tanisin, and their daughter, Lara. 



M P LANDIS, STUDIO: SQ FT. (DETAIL), 1 999 
DNA GALLERY 




PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 I PAGE 139 















jy 

KURBI5GERECHTIGKEIT (GOURDJUSTICE). 2000 



FRED BERNSTEIN 



Wry and Pumpernickel; 
The Antic Photo Shop 
of 

HAVING ASKED THIS WRITER TO POSE 

for a photo that would become part of their spring 
2000 show at New York’s David Beitzel Gallery', 
Nick Kahn and Richard Selesnick had opposite re- 
actions to my diaper-wearing, crystal-contemplat- 
ing figure: while one turned his back to me, the 
other bowed way down, as if in supplication. 

Could the photo s\'mbolize the artists' ambiva- 
lence toward the press? That would be far too 
literal a reading. In the world of Kahn/Selesnick, 
I’m not a writer, and they’re not artists: we’re all 
three bogdwellers on a spiritual journey occasioned 
by a fictional Amiageddon. Partncrs-in-art since 
they were college classmates, Kahn (obsequious) 
and Selesnick (indifferent) have created an ersatz 
universe that manages to be as spiritual as it is slap- 
stick. Before this year, their work focused on the 
exploits of the Royal Excavation Coqrs, a nonex- 
istent yet somehow hardy band of early 20th- 
centurv explorers. The Corps’ adventures were 
documented in series of sepia-toned panoramic 
photos bearing longhand captions. The photos are 
both fake history — made some sixty years after the 
events in question — and fake panoramas, since the 
artists created tlie 360-dcgree views a sliver at a time, 
turning die camera on its tripod between shots. In 
this way. diey conjured a cast of dozens using only 
themselves and an occasional friend as models. So 
convincing was diis work, completed between 1 997 
and 1999. that the first time I saw it, at 
Provincetown’s East End Gallery, 1 diought it was a 
trove discovered at the Wellfleet Flea Market, rather 
than conceived in the artists’ flea market minds. 

The Beitzel Gallery show — parts of which 
debuted at Pepper Gallery in Boston — is titled 
"Transmissions from die Shottensuniofkiinftig” (the 
last word loosely translated by the artists as 
"Scotlandfuturebog”), and is set not in the past but 
in an imagined, post-apocalyptic future. The 

PAGE 140 I PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 



denizens of this world wear conical — and comical — 
facemasks; they march around in gloomy silence, 
canydng (for reasons even they don’t understand) 
blocks of lard. The work is lush, printed in rich gray 
tones and on a kind of cascading silk paper (rather 
than the self-effacing copier paper on which the 
earlier series were printed). It’s as if Kahn/Selesnick, 
having lured us into their magical netherworld — 
where, it turns out, we like being — need less and 
less subterfuge to keep us there. 

Gone are the lines and folds and fountain-pen 
inscriptions, the photographic equivalents of bang- 
ing a chain against a credenza to create a fake an- 
tique. Gone, too, are the accoutrements of travel. 
Now the characters’ full or partial nudity (they’re 
not exaedy dressed for trekking) and low-to-the- 
ground poses suggest a kind or rootedness; so do 
the often symmetrical arrangements of people, 
props, and backgrounds. There is no sense of for- 
ward movement, as there was in the film-strip-like 
panoramas. Instead, the characters can only won- 
der if they have any future, as the introduction to 
the exhibition, written by the artists, makes clear: 
"Each rock they move, each lard block they carry, 
simultaneously causes and averts the coming ca- 
tastrophe that is now past.” 

Tliat is a reasonably good description of a Kahn/ 
Selesnick photo shoot. To play a lard carrier, you 
have to become one. Tliat’s what 1 learned one 
August afternoon at Provincetown's Hatch’s Harbor. 
Lidcn witli costume components and heavy camera 
equipment, we had trudged out to the harbor in 
time for tlie low tide (when, photographed from 
just the right angle, sand dunes would loom like 
mountains). But die tide was rushing in too quickly. 
Finding a bit of high ground, Kahn positioned me — 
a rubber sheet tied around my waist, a shred of an 
old tent dangling from my shoulder — while 
Selesnick set up the wooden field camera with its 
black fabric hood. With Marx Brothers-like timing, 
they adjusted props and costumes, and eventually 
themselves, while the self-timer ticked away. High 
winds and rushing water threatened to topple the 
camera tripod. The resulting photo is typically 
whimsical; whether they had the title — 
Kiirbisgereclitighcit (Goiirdiiisticc) — in mind, or 
whether it was a future inspiration that had already 
passed, they didn’t tell me. 

A few months later, the pair brought their an- 
tics to the Phillips Andover Academy, where they 
were artists-in-residence last fall. To complete the 
work in the Beitzel Gallery show, they drafted 
students and a few faculty members for a series of 



studio shots. In one memorable image, titled 
BrotiuorgauUimmcnmg (Brauiilnwit), the models 
march with standards of bread — rye, white, whole 
wheat, the gamut. (The artists bought out a whole 
bakery that morning.) The result is among the most 
historically resonant of tlie team’s images to date — 
picture Andrea Mantegna’s trumpeters and stan- 
dard-bearers (admired by Kahn/Selesnick at Hamp- 
ton Gourt in England) with bits of Breugel, 
Delacroix, and Odd Nerdrum thrown in. 

In fact, the finished work is composed of two 
separate images of people, plus a backdrop shot sev- 
eral months earlier in Wellfleet — all seamlessly 
melded with Photoshop software. To this writer 
(who was, after all, cast as a dispenser of 
"gourd justice” by the artists), the use of Photoshop 
is worrisome. The fakery in earlier Kahn/Selesnick 
work was decidedly low-tech, and thus only partly 
effective, leaving a gap between how the scene would 
have looked in “real” life, and how it did look after 
being staged, snapped, printed, spliced together, and 
antiqued. That gap was the territory in which their 
artistry came to rest, and the chasm into which 
viewers found themselves quite happily falling. 

Photoshop makes it possible to close the gap 
between what’s imagined and what’s presented 
to the public. But seams, not seamlessness, are 
what Kahn/Selesnick’s work has been about. With 
Photoshop, serendipity is no longer an option; 
every aesthetic decision is ripe for second-guessing. 
And so, evocative as the bread photo is, its 
imperfections read as oversights, rather than as the 
necessary (and disarming) indicia of process. 

It took a lot of tries to get the gourd hanging 
from my waist where Kahn and Selesnick wanted 
it. It’s possible that next time they won’t bother, 
preferring instead to do the positioning at a 
computer screen, when the tides aren’t rushing and 
the timer isn’t ticking. But is that a step forward or 
a step back? Does it matter? It may, since to 
appreciate Kahn/Selesnick is to care about how 
the work was made. That the making left its mark 
has always been the artists’ great achievement. 

Frai Bernstein is an arcliitectnre ami design writer in 
New York, lie is a contrilniting editor at Metro- 
politan Home and Blueprint. This year his work 
has also aj’i^’ared in the New York Times, the 
Washington Post, and the New Yorker. 



ELEANOR KENNELLY 

j 

I Linda Touby: 

Abstract Expression 
without the Angst 

T he Abstract Expressionists took pride in art 
that slapped viewers in the face. The best crop 
of gestural painters today give us comfort food, 
not confrontation. Viewers today are acculturated 
I to the spastic energy and swirling id of paintings 
by Hans Hofmann, Willem de Kooning, and Jack- 
son Pollock. Educated people know greatness and 
they like it, even viscerally. New work in this genre 
(as long as it stays this side of imitative) gains re- 
fracted acceptance, even benefits from nostalgia 
for the decades when painting was heroic and pure 
and completely unhinged from any story line. 

Linda Touby, a New York artist who shows at 
Rice/Polak Gallery in Provincetown, taught me this 
lesson. In a Washington, DC gallery, I watched 
three collectors compete for one of her ebullient 
compositions. A lady from Norway and a couple 
from northern Virginia circled this painting of tur- 
quoise on yellow, with a smear of lavender, a squib 
of black, a torque of red. They cooed. They paced — 
up close then way back far. Separately, they nego- 
tiated with the director. No one offered to describe 
i or assess the work, but it held them tight. And 
' when the red dot was fixed for the Norwegian, 
she would only divulge, “It makes me happy.” 
Happy? Remember what the action painters 
I were all about — anxiety. Abstract Expressionism 
! was more an attitude toward making art than a cer- 
! tain style of painting. It entailed a commitment to 
art’s essential subjectivity and to elevated personal 
! emotion as painting’s true topics. Eor the postwar 
I generation of artists, uncorking the unconscious led 
to paintings animated by anger, doubt, sex, and 
bmte force. Psychic topics were rarely “happy.” 
Touby is committed to subjectivity. She has faith 
I in painting as an open-ended process. Her work has 
I an Abstract Expressionist vibe, without the violence. 

: ; What’s new is the joy. Touby doesn’t really lil<e being 
compared to men from the ’50s. “It’s my work, not 
i ; de Kooning’s. Whatever they did, it just happened to 
I : be before me. I wasn’t consciously attracted to this. It’s 
i ' natural to me,” she explains, shmgging and shaking 
I her blonde head. Touby may not like such compari- 
! ‘ sons, but for the viewer, these references are critical. 

The daughter of a painter, Touby grew up in 
' ! Florida. As a child she was in and out of hospitals 
■; for a painful, undiagnosed stomach ailment. To 
1 1 entertain her and stoke the talent she had already 
1 1 shown, Touby ’s father brought art books to her 
I hospital beds. “I saw everything I needed in those 
books. The Picassos really got me. I remember see- 
ing Pollock painting on board and thinking, since 
we didn’t have money for canvas, it’s okay to paint 
on anything as long as you are painting.” 

Touby began treatment at Mt. Sinai Hospital 
i and her family moved to New York, close to 
collections and art classes. As a teenager, she grew 
out of sickness and threw herself into painting, 

I studying at the Pratt Institute and the Art Students 

; I 

'l! 

Li 




SOUTH BEACH XXX, 1997-98 



League, where she worked with Richard Pousette- 
Dart in the 1980s. “He would come once a week 
and sit in the center of a classroom. It was like the 
Last Supper,” she recalls. “It wasn’t theory. It wasn’t 
how to paint this or that. He talked about the 
spirituaEty of art, which is second nature to an artist.” 

Touby describes the process of painting as a 
kind of frenzy. “I use a lot of power when I paint. 
1 never sit. It’s almost like a dance. I’m hyperac- 
tive and it spills out into my work. I need to get 
that energy out. At some point I run out of en- 
ergy and I’m finished for the day.” But Touby — 
and here’s the difference — channels pleasure 
through that intensity. Her best compositions 
seem to trumpet, “here’s my song,” with a full 
choir for backup. The act of painting well, as 
she does — with flaring elbows, jousts and jabs, 
beating back the demons, daring anyone to doubt 
her, tackling it every day, all day long — makes 
Touby a painterly heir. 

And what inspires her to paint? Elemental 
things. The “Sand” series was launched in 
Provincetown. “1 first went up for an opening, and 
I got to go to the beach. It’s such a cool light, not 
like Florida’s. White, soft, cool light that molds you. 
Even if 1 have the tension of a show, the culture is 
so open, 1 feel free.” The “Sand” series has that 
sea, that sand, that mother-of-pearl light, and that 
appreciation of freedom. 

On that afternoon in Washington, DC, in the 
Alex Gallery, with all attention on a large canvas, 1 
was pulled to something small — South Beach , two 
impastoed eight by eight-inch squares pushed to- 
gether, so that black and white shapes face off at 
center and jags of orangey-red skid off in either di- 
rection. It’s a painting grenade, a compact composi- 
tion of color contrasts set to go off with the right 
look. But it’s also a very solid object, not skittish or 
ephemeral, a slab of abstract red meat for a meat-and- 
potatoes kind of abstraction. This is not “Why are we 
here?” painting, but “It’s good to be alive!” painting. 

Touby’s small panels are also funny, next to her 
predecessors’ large-scale masterworks, which 
broke all prior rules regarding size. She could be 
making maquettes for larger work, or designs for 
Ab Ex tiles, or even paintings for a baby’s room — 
a baby headed for a lifetime of museum trips. 
Funny and stunning and popular at the same time. 
Isn’t that heroic enough for us? 

Eleanor Keunclly is a freelance jonrnalist who has 
written for Art & Antiques, ARTnews, Art & 
Auction, and mnnerons other jnddications. She is a 
former art critic for the Washington Times. 



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PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 I PAGE 141 






PAUL BOWEN 



Entering Switch 
at Gagosian 




CAPE MUSEUM OF HNE ARTS 




Surrealism in America 
During the 1930's 
and 1940's 



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July 22 - 

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( cross the street behind an elderly woman. Her 
hair is immaculately coifed in a way too young 
for her years and she wears a fulMength hir coat 
from an animal I can’t quite identify. She tenta- 
tively opens the door, set in a blank, gray wall on 
the last block of 24th Street, right by the West Side 
Highway, where thousands of cars pass every hour. 
The previous day's snow has quickly melted and 
everywhere there are puddles of water, mixed with 
oil and other street filth. Chelsea may be getting 
stylish, but they don't appear to sweep this block 
too often. 

The woman and 1 both know what we are look- 
ing for — I have seen photographs of Richard Serra’s 
new sculpture. Switch, and 1 expect she has, too. 
The work consists of six curved steel plates, sev- 
eral inches thick, set on edge, and looming thir- 
teen feet over the viewers’ heads. Three pairs of 
concave arcs fomi corridors between their double- 
walls, and leave a vacant triangular space in the 
center. The whole vaguely resembles an ocean 
liner’s hull. The sculpture is made from Cor-ten 
steel — a material designed to rust just slightly, 
then stop, so the nist becomes a weather-proof 
coating. 

Inside the Gagosian gallery, the woman and 1 
hesitate for a moment, not because of the visual 
impact we might have anticipated, but because 
we are taken with the sight of twenty or thirty 
small children sitting with their backs toward the 
nearest of the steel walls. They sit on the floor, 
eating lunch, name-tags around their necks and 
clipboards at their feet with drawings they have 
made of the leviathan towering idly behind them 
as if, it too, is taking a break. 

The woman asks the children what grade they 
are in. 1 cannot hear their teacher's reply because 
suddenly the deafening sound of hammering 
comes from the gallery next door, still under con- 
struction. The sounds break an otherwise church- 
like atmosphere. Wlien the hammering stops, it 
is replaced by the children’s high-pitched voices. 

Approaching me, the woman asks, “Are we 
supposed to walk through there?” 

1 glance down the narrow corridors curving 
across the huge space and reply, “Yes, it’s perfectly 
safe.” As if 1 don’t remember the story of an acci- 
dental amputation caused some years ago, while 
one of Serra’s sculptures (improperly rigged by a 
contractor), was being dismantled. One section 
toppled, knocking another part of the sculpture 
over in a domino-like effect, and severed a 
worker’s leg. 



As if reading my mind, the woman says, “If I 
don't come back, tell my husband and kids that I 
love them.” 

1 watch her enter the sculpture and then fol- 
low. Once inside the first of the three corridors, 
I feel both unsteady and embraced. At times, 1 
have to walk like a skater, one leg crossing over 
in front of the other. The walls lean asymmetri- 
cally and the space narrows, then widens. The 
ends of the three corridors almost touch, leaving 
just enough room between them to enter the 
triangular space. 

My family lived within earshot of the rail- 
way when 1 was a child and I remember how 
sometimes, in the middle of the night, I woke to 
the sound of the Irish mail train racing through 
our town on the way to the ferry. I also remem- 
ber the metal crash from the shunting yards as 
train cars were added or subtracted. Perhaps it’s 
the sheer power of the sculpture, or the recogni- 
tion of some quality I hope for in my own work 
when material and process effortlessly mesh. 
Either way. I’m walking around grinning when I 
encounter a small girl separated from her group. 
I sense that if she perceives any danger, it is from 
me, not Switch. 

I think of my own daughter, now eighteen, and 
turn away to leave, but am stopped by another 
child, who asks me how the sculpture was made. 
I search for an answer, something simple, but not 
patronizing. I imagine the red-hot metal, the roll- 
ers at the steel mill squeezing out the massive 
curved plates. Just as I am about to put this into 
words, a gallery intern or employee, intervenes. 
He steers the child away and back to the class gath- 
ered around a small paper model of the sculpture. 

Flustered, I walk towards the door, feeling re- 
buffed as a sculptor and a parent. Or perhaps Switch 
itself has made me feel uncertain, small and vul- 
nerable against its giant steel flanks. I exit the gal- 
lery, cross the street, turn west, south, then east, 
navigating the growing puddles of murky water. 

Paul Bowen is a sailj’tor who has lived in 
Provincetown since 1977- His work is rej’rcsented in 
many collections both here and abroad, and has most 
recently been acquired by the Birmingham Mnseinn of 
Art in Alabama and the Walker An Center in 
Alinneaivlis. For ten years he has coordinated a 
I’rogram at the Provincetown Art Association Muse tint 
in which local students curate e.xhibitions front the 
I’ermanent collection. 



PAGE 142 I PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 






DAHLIA ELSAYED 



Hiroyuki Hamada: 

Nature's Wildcard 




UNTITLED, 1998-99 

H iroyuki Hamada’s show at OK Harris Gal- 
lery in New York City this spring featured 
work made since his residency at the Fine 
Arts Work Center in 1995, some seen before at 
DNA Gallery, some newly unveiled. The nine 
pieces were a good representation of a high-level 
body of work with a maturity beyond the artist’s 
thirty-one years. 

A serious, almost somber feeling surrounds 
Hamada’s pieces, which are wall-hung but sculp- 
ture-like in depth. They feel ancient in a way, 
warranting a quiet attention and respect. Yet 
there is lightness, too, particularly in the vibrancy 
of attention to surface and the playful dialogue 
between process and medium. Hamada consis- 
tently uses his preferred materials — enamel, plas- 
ter, tar, wax and wood — and keeps the range of 
color — ecru, sand, umber, ebony — limited and 
close to nature. He works with and against his 
materials to create beautiful, rich surfaces. 

Hamada’s palette of incised circles, drilled holes, 
cracks, grids, and lines works to communicate the 
ferocity, balance, or tranquiUity in each piece. They 
are the pulse of his work. The random and precise 
placement of marks, the depth or shallowness of 
bored holes, the concentration or sparseness of 
tooled areas, together create a presence that is solid 
and confident, but also fragile. Drilled holes, which 
are in all the works, are in some pieces fine, or- 
dered, and crisp, and in others bored so deep that 
the underlayers of burlap and plaster are exposed. 
Like brushstrokes, Hamada’s surface treatments 
allow the viewer to feel the presence of a skilled 
hand — intense, delicate, and soulful. 

The two most recent pieces in the show, both 
untitled from 1998-99, were effectively placed 
directly across from each other. The orb-shaped 
works, each twenty-nine inches in diameter by six 
inches deep, are classic Hamada. The staid 
symmetry of the circular shape, as is often the case 
with his square pieces, works with the irregularities 
of the surface to ground and contain the 
asymmetrical, seemingly random elements within. 



In one, reticulated holes fomi comb-like clusters 
tightly packed throughout the piece. In the other, 
depth and placement of holes vary; some of the 
drilled areas look gauged out, or eaten away, 
mutated. Hamada’s work recalls the volatility of 
nature, the unpredictable collisions that create 
beauty. Seeing his work is like espying that 
wildcard. You feel humbled. 

What looks random or organic is not. Every 
crack and fine hole serves a high purpose. Some- 
times, from a distance, pieces look almost mono- 
chromatic, but closer, subtle variations speak a 
silent, tight dialogue. In one work from 1997-98, 
the color of aged ivory warms up and cools down 
while subtle width variations and hairline shifts of 
lines are traversed by a vertical row of finely drilled 
holes that slips but then returns. There is a most 
delicate curved line that mimics the oval shape of 
the piece, like a thin membrane barely containing 
the overall vitality. Hamada is creating peaks and 
valleys of tension, and every element is crucial. 

Key to the feel of his work is the time Hamada 
spends on each piece. Most take about twelve 
months; some evolve over a few years. His ap- 
proach of working for long periods, often return- 
ing to the same piece again and again, and his use 
of tactile materials and processes, create layers of 
surface manipulation that feel historically weath- 
ered, ruin-like. What emerges from his labored 
process are works steeped in a complexity and 
depth that is hard to pass by quickly. The viewer 
is drawn deep to a place that is meditative and 
appealingly dark. 

Hamada writes in his brief notes for this show, 
“The material itself speaks loudly in some pieces. 
My nature weighs heavily in others. I like to feel 
that all of these interlock on different levels and 
create a certain presence.” In conversations what 
strikes you more than Hamada’s well-chosen 
words are his silences — the mysterious place 
where he goes to process, absorb, configure. See- 
ing these pieces, one feels witness to a civilized 
battle between process and medium, which 
Hamada captures at a moment of an intense and 
gorgeous arc. 

Dnhlia Elsayed is a I’ainter and a writer working in 
New York. 




2000 

Beginning the Second 
Century of the Art Colony 

Exhibitions 
HANS HOFMANN PAINTINGS 

Curated by Lillian Oiiowsky 
THE ART COLONY’S FIRST CENTURY: Part 
One, 1900-1933 Curated by Polly Burnell and 
Rob DuToit Part Two, 1933-1966 Curated by 
Bob Bade}' and Brenda Horowitz Part Three, 
1966-99 Curated by Pasquaie Nataie. A series 
of exhibitions primarily from the Museum's 
Collection. 

HOFMANN STUDENTS 
EMERGING ARTISTS 

Curated by Hlisalreth Pead 

PHOTOGRAPHY 

Curated by .Marian Roth 

CARMEN CICERO 

Curated by Maty Abell 

JACK PIERSON 

TONY VEVERS: 50 YEAR RETROSPECTIVE 
TJ. WALTON 
RAPHAEL NOZ 

RECENT GIFTS TO THE COLLECTION 
MEMBERS OPEN AND JURIED 

Museum School Classes 
Painting, Printmaking, Sculpture, 
Drawing, Children’s Classes 
Forum 2000: What is An Artist? Sports Writing. 
Writing About Art. Hofmann the Painter. 
Slide Talks: Herman and Maiy Robinson 
Museum School Teachers, Tony Vevers, 
Sideo Fromboluti 

Performances: Piano in the Galleries with Dick 
Miller and guests on Thursday evenings. 
Chamber Music Series. DanceWorks. 
Events: Secret Garden Tour. Annual 
Consignment Auction of Deceased 
Provincetown Artists. Silent Auction of 
Artists 8 X 10 panels. 

TIMES AND DATES AT: www.paam.ofg 

PROVINCETOWN ART 
ASSOCIATION AND MUSEUM 

460COMMERCIAI.ST. • PROVINCETOWN 
308-487-1750 • fax: 508-487-t372 
PAAM@CAPECOD.NET 



PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 I PAGE 143 



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THE CURIOUS CROCODILE 

209 Commercial St. - in the Aquarium Shops 



The Earth, Ocean, and 
Heavens of Linda 
OKIson Graham 



L inda Ohlson Graham is a gentle woman of 
many talents. Among the most frequent guests 
on WOKTR’s "Poet’s Comer,” she shares, in soft, 
dulcet tones, her thoughts on life, the earth, and 
the universe. “The path can be arduous and 
labyrinthic,” Graham recites from her Joimial hn- 
niaiiatelv Following n Near-ilaitli Exi’cricnce, “though 
we must find refuge from a materialistic, vacu- 
ous world." Graham has been recording stream- 
of-consciousness thoughts and aphorisms since 
minor brain surgery in 1993. “My favorite one- 
liner in the book is ‘God's name is Art,'” she says. 

Graham is now working on a book called Earth 
Ocean Heavens, which incorporates poetry and 
philosophical insights inspired by her own experi- 
ences. Graham's story is a fascinating one, conveyed 
not only through her poetry, but through her pho- 
tographs, which will also grace die book, and can 
be found in cafes, libraries, and galleries Capewide. 

“1 believe art is truly inspired and that inspira- 
tion comes from a higher plane,” she states. Inspi- 
ration has also come from die painter J.M.W. Turner. 
Graham co-directed, and lived in, the Turner Mu- 
seum, in Denver, from 1984 to 1996. Turner, whose 
amiospheric sunrises and Romantic English land- 
scapes anticipated the French Impressionist move- 
ment. has influenced Graham’s photography. “The 
way Turner captured light was just phenomenal,” 
Graham says. “Living in the midst of all that art, 
floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall, was like living in 
Heaven!” 

Graham records nature’s evocative palette. Binl 
Of Paradise ...W'ellfleet presents a stunning sunrise 
of fiery colors that are so intense you can almost 
feel their energetic vibration. A single seagull claims 
a deep orange sky infused with violet rays. “1 do 
my best to include as much sky in my images as 
possible,” Graham says. “That may be a result of 
having spent so much time in the presence of 
Turner’s art, which depicted big skies.” 

In a photograph entitled Hammond Castle, Gra- 
ham captures an impressionistic image of intense 
color and liquid light that flows toward the bottom 
of a steep, winding stairwell. Thick, gray stones 
soften under a lantern’s illumination — reaching 
around the curved wall, casting a golden, glowing 
reflection over the brick floor below. A random 
splash of scarlet paint adds depth to this ethereal 
perspective. 

Living on Cape Cod provides Graham with an 
unlimited banquet of first-light visions and dissolv- 
ing horizons. “I’ll see a sky that will knock my socks 
off and will often drive to the ocean to photograph 
it.” This was the case with A Glimi’se of Paradise #2, 
which captures forever those evanescent moments 
just before sunlight transforms a black and white 
world into a colorful canvas. 




EARTH OCEAN HEAVENS, 1978 



Graham’s fascination witii tiie elements grew 
over the five years she spent sailing, with time in 
tiie Caribbean. “What I wanted more than anything 
as a child was to travel to faraway places and to 
meet peoples of the world.” She met her desire, trav- 
eling to Haiti and tiie San Bias Islands of Panama 
with a dear friend in the 1970s. “I traveled nearly 
15,000 miles — at an average of five knots,” Graham 
laughs. Even after they survived a tornado that 
beached and destroyed their first boat, their pas- 
sion for tiie open seas remained constant. She used 
a star finder to learn about tiie constellations. “The 
night sky was our world for half the day,” she says. 
“Tiie magnificence of the universe around us was 
just amazing.” During this period at sea Graham 
developed a deep connection not only to tiie ocean 
and giant sky, but to herself. “The forces within our- 
selves can be as tumultuous as tiie forces of nature,” 
Graham says. “In life you experience stomis and 
you weather tiirough them.” 

Now living in Wellfleet, Graham has developed 
her own way to access the peace and universal con- 
nection she experienced on the open seas. She 
learned how to meditate and chant while in Haiti. 
During her first meditation she recalls a “visual of 
tiie heavens inside my mind, as if I were traveling 
in space.” This revelation altered Graham’s percep- 
tion of what it means to travel. “It made me realize 
tiiat all the open space that I had ever longed for 
was available to me when I quieted my thoughts. 
The space within me was as great, if not greater, 
than all the outer space.” 

Graham also believes that meditation can open 
up her mind to receive subtle life-enhancing guid- 
ance. “Sometimes when 1 meditate, very clear, one- 
line directions come into my mind. For years I have 
based my life on that inner guidance. I really think 
humanity can realize ways to solve our world’s 
problems by quieting our minds for awhile and lis- 
tening.” Each person, Graham claims, is energeti- 
cally connected with the heavens through the chakra 
system. She teaches orbital grounding, a yoga tech- 
nique that opens up the crown chakra to connect 
with the heavens. “Heaven isn’t some other place, 
some other time. It’s right here in the midst of us.” 
Unlike Turner’s raging seas, Graham’s landscapes 
and seascapes are calm. She expresses a profound 
interpretation of life as a magical, spiritual journey 
and inspires us to stop, take in the view, and savor 
a deep, cleansing breath. “My deepest desire in life 
is to be a positive influence for healing on the planet. 
I'm striving to create images that touch people very 
deeply within, that might give them a still point or 
elicit a feeling they’ve never felt before.” 

Nicola Francis-Biirnell is a healer, teacher, and writer 
living on the Caj’e. 



PAGE 144 I PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 




CHRISTOPHER BUSA 



Close Encounters 
with Al Wasserman 



I n his most recent, ongoing series of photographs, 
“Close Encounters,” Al Wasserman plays wittily 
with concepts of scale, especially the idea that 
the big is closer than the tiny. He prefers to enlarge 
by magnifying the complexity of the small. Work- 
ing mosdy in Provincetown, fifty miles out to sea 
on a thin spit of sand, the sky becomes huge and 
human beings small. Here, the hardly noticeable 
becomes the central subject. 

Wasserman’s choices in still photography have 
evolved logically from the lessons he learned during 
a forty-year career as a documentary filmmaker. 
When he joined CBS News in the early '50s, the 
television documentary was in its infancy. 
Wasserman used the documentary to tell a story. 
He understood that film, unlike print, was more 
emotional than informational, and he used film to 
involve viewers’ feelings. Rather than present fact- 
filled surveys, Wasserman focused on people and 
their stories to embody large thematic ideas — an 
approach that helped shape the nature of the 
medium. His 1956 film. Out of Darkness, which 
followed the treatment of a schizophrenic patient 
over many months, was television’s first feature- 
length documentary. A significant forerunner of 
cinema verite, it remains a classic. By the time 
Wasserman retired at age sixty-five (following a 
decade as a 60 Minutes producer), he had made 
over seventy-five films and earned almost every 
major honor, including an Academy Award. 

Having long spent a few weeks per year in Pro- 
vincetown in snatched vacations, Wasserman and 
his wife, Barbara, began to enjoy extended sea- 
sons of four months each. A neighbor, Joel 
Meyerowitz, had already published his celebrated 
book of color photographs. Cape Light, and was a 
familiar figure on the beach. Once he found his 
location, Meyerowitz stood patiently, surveying 
the scene with bird-like darts of his body. What 
was he looking for? Wasserman wondered. For a 
certain pattern of ripples? The reflection soon to 
be cast by a slow-moving cloud? A shift in the tone 
of the light? The process was mysterious, its soli- 
tary nature seductive. At low tide, in full view of 
seagulls, Meyerowitz set his enormous, heavy 
Deardorff camera on the tripod and descended 
under a trail of dark cloth to look at a stately world 
that was upside down and backwards. 

Wasserman possessed an old 35mm Nikon 
camera, used occasionally for family snapshots. He 
dug it out of the closet and began taking pictures. 
With a light meter on permanent loan from his son- 
in-law, plus some new lenses, he began prowling 
the shoreline on a daily basis. At low tide, he studied 
the high water marks etched into the wooden pilings 
of the bulkheads of the beach houses. His pockets 
bulging with lenses, his neck a place to hold the 
strap for his camera and light-meter, Wasserman 
became comfortable with the tools of his trade. 




PYRAMID, 1999 



What began casually soon became obsessive, or 
rather a way to chart his own path in seeking visual 
themes he could explore in depth. One summer 
he watched the interactions of shadows and 
reflections on the surface of the water. Shadows, 
cast by boats or other objects, became obedient to 
the slow passage of the sun. Reflections were under 
the control of the photographer. A small change 
in position allowed him to create another pattern. 
Wasserman showed these photographs at the 
Cortland Jessup Gallery for a decade. 

His latest work is the consequence of a new 
60mm macro lens, ideal for extreme close-ups. 
His old territory is suddenly transformed, and 
the bulkheads reveal on minute inspection a 
world Wasserman never suspected. His sense of 
scale dislocated, he finds himself enlarging the 
whorls in a knot of weathered wood. So extreme 
is the close-up, the grain looks like rutted land in 
an aerial photograph of a vast strip mine. At the 
same time, this photograph of a knot of wood is 
larger than the actual knot. 

Often, Wasserman presents variations of one 
image in a diptych, or a triptych, so that the first 
image seems eerily flopped, like a reflection in 
moving water. In one collage of three photo- 
graphs, pictured here, the subject appears in three 
different sizes. These shifts in scale reveal some- 
thing cumulative, like the organic repetition of 
fossil forms in a spiraling nautilus shell, where 
you see the earlier parts replicated in larger and 
later parts. 

Perhaps it is tangential, but it seems worth 
noting that if Wasserman’s film documentaries 
focused on people, his still photography stub- 
bornly refuses to violate the privacy of people. 
His discomfort with making portraits may be lik- 
ened to the nature writing of Annie Dillard, who 
learned to write about rocks and insects because 
their feelings could not be hurt. 

Christopher Busa writes elsewhere in the pages about 
Tony Vevers. 



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PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 I PAGE 145 






RONALDO V. WILSON 



Ellen Gallagher 

Read: Slippage 



A cross the small yard between my 
apartment and the Stanley Kunitz 
Common Room at the Fine Arts Work 
Center, I rushed to see Ellen Gallagher’s 
slide lecture. Though I had never seen her work 
nor even heard of her before my fellowship, 1 was 
anxious to see her presentation after a local artist 
described her paintings to me. He explained how 
she laid dozens of sheets of penmanship paper onto 
large canvases, then added images to the abstract 
field with oil, ink, and pencil. Highlighting the 
images, his right index finger calmly circled into 
his left palm, tracing out tiny and numerous "sambo 
or coon lips and eyes.” Without hesitation, he 
shifted easily from one field of meaning to another, 
as though "sambo or coon lips and eyes” could be 
shared as easily as neutral abstract fields. 

His description reminds me of similarly palpable 
constructions of the racialized body in two liter- 
ary landscapes. In Uncle Tom's Cabin, Harriet 
Beecher Stowe introduces Topsy, a twelve-year- 
old slave purchased for the St. Clare estate, as a 
"freshly-caught specimen ... [whose] round shin- 
ing eyes, glittering as glass beads, moved with 
quick and restless glances over everything in the 
room. Her mouth, half open with astonishment 
. , . [her] black, glassy eyes glittered with a wicked 
drollery.” John Stedman. in his Narrative of a Five 
Years Exj’edition Against the Revolted Negroes of 
Surinam, also fixates on a slave's eyes and mouth. 
Describing "the Mulatto maid Joanna,” who would 
later become his "Surinam wife,” he writes, “Her 
eyes, as black as ebony, were large and full of ex- 
pression, bespeaking the goodness of her heart . . . 
her lips a little prominent which, when she spoke, 
discovered two regular rows of pearls as white as 
mountain snow.” 

In fact, I am often reminded of Topsy 's and 
Joanna's faces, which seem to reappear every- 
where, recalling and recreating meaning in end- 
less repetition: Martin Lawrence's exaggerated 
eyes on the side of a bus advertising the movie 
Life ... Whoopi Goldberg’s shining eyes and teeth 
gleaming above and below her bath of Milk 
(might we might want to drink Iteri) ... An anony- 
mous large dark woman’s face, eyes pointing the 
shopper to the Energizers, on sale at the A&P ... 
Grant Hill with a cartoon chicken on top of his 
head, his eyes bugged out and leering up to the 
happy bird on the back of the Corn Flakes box. 

As 1 entered the Common Room, 1 looked for 
the eyes and lips that I expected and came to see, 
but instead 1 saw a slide depicting more recent 
work — a large black field made up of what 
appeared to be shiny dried fish scales, some layered 



PAGE 146 1 PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 




i" 



DREXCIYA, 1997 

and fixed, some gaping, others in the midst of 
peeling away. I sat near the front of the room, 
staring up into the slide, looking to find, 
somewhere, the charged signs. Yet the image 
revealed something else — sporadic rows of 
markings on the canvas; 1 thought of rows of geese 
in flight, their motion stopped against a black sky. 
There were thin outlines of clouds that could be 
read as lips, but they were jelly-fish delicate and 
porous. Some tiny outlines were carbuncled 
around perfect T-squares, while others unhinged, 
moving loose and free. The marks seemed to 
unorganize meaning, even within their own 
patterns. 

Neville Wakefield describes the experience of 
seeing Ellen Gallagher’s work as being “set adrift 
[in] fields of uninterrupted pleasure” or “in the 
pure state of abstract minimalism” before dis- 
covering an “itinerant minstrel show” equipped 
with a “delirious jumpin’ jive of thick grinning 
lips, whites of eyes, and pickaninny heads.” An- 
other critic, Helen Swords, recounts how the 
surface of the painting Pafrer Ciijr “is almost satu- 
rated by minute and endlessly reprinted full- 
lipped mouths, shaped like split bananas.” She 
continues, “These are overtly repetitious repre- 
sentations of the racist icons of negro eyes and 
lips created by the 19th-century minstrel shows.” 
Okwui Enwezor writes that Gallagher “makes 
gorgeous abstract works of deceptively calm, 
pleasurable sea surfaces ... Beneath this though, 
lies a more discordant purpose that purportedly 
carries [a] kind of political content (read: race).” 

My introduction to Gallagher’s work fol- 
lowed these instructive models. In generic terms, 
1 moved from abstract background to concrete 



foreground, interpreting identifiable “racist icons.” 
However, as 1 saw the slides, here, in the black 
spaces, where I imagined clouds breaking apart, 
birds and mouths in thin and mutating lines, 1 knew 
I was seeing something that extended beyond the 
presumed socio-historical charge, beyond the par- 
enthetical directive, “(read: race).” 

In a slide detail of the painting Drexciya are j 
heads with flaming, fat tilde S-whooshes of or- 
ange and yellow hair, brown and peach faces, 
blue and brown eyes (no whites, simply blotted 
irises), whose engorged pink lips and large or- 
ange-red tongues flick after round disembodied 
white and blue dotted cell-like eyeballs. During 
her lecture, Gallagher described imagining black 
nurses swimming in the ocean, caring for preg- j 
nant women and babies who were thrown from I 
slave ships. When did the bodies of drowning 
women and children become only eyes, with 
orange-red tongues jetting after them, each sign 
floating, disconnected? Or is the tongue a bit of ' 
hair that emerges through the body, one stroke 
of orange paint fusing through another, making 
fluid the very notion that any of these signs are 
fixed to any particular construction or material 
category? (Read: slippage.) 

Throughout her talk, Gallagher offered a few 
terms through which her work could be viewed, 
namely: “black inscrutability,” “the not readable” 
and “the speculative.” These terms lay in con- 
trast to the way her work’s signs are often read 
by others — as enthusiastically noted indications 
of race with little interrogation beyond their dis- 
cordant charges, little reexamination within the 
fractured and in-flux socio-psychological landscape 
from which they build and repeat. In an interview 
with Thyrza Nichols Goodeve, Gallagher said, 
“The imagery I use does signify race. The problem 
is people get stuck there. It becomes the only thing 
the work is seen as being about ... people seem to 
stop at what the work looks like, rather than see 
what is manifesting, [emphasis mine] People go off 
saying they see these sambos, mammies, 
pickininies, and I go what sambos, mammies, 
pickininies? You choose whether you want to en- 
ter my subjectivity . . . the one place where the work 
can be seen to be about race.” 

Looking at Gallagher’s work through Iter sub- 
jectivity, rather than a given objectivity, creates 
this fluidity of iconography. “Sambo or coon lips 
and eyes” is too static a container; it forecloses 
meaning, relying on a fixed understanding of the 
racialized body within a set social and historical 
framework. Gallagher’s iconography is not fixed, 
nor is there a one-to-one relationship between 
the body and how it is has been historically in- 
scribed or named. Instead, she attempts to find 
and create what she describes as a “language 



around those images. The language as a site ... 
The language as a way to keep those images off 
our body.” 

During the lecture, Gallagher, confessing back 
pain, described the extremely labor intensive 
quality of her painting. She drew parallels between 
the physical exhaustion of painting and her 
previous work as a carpenter and a fisherman. For 
her, the repetition in painting particular symbols, 
again and again, emphasizes the labor process 
itself, which she constantly draws from and 
incorporates back into her art. Her emphasis on 
labor creates new contexts, alluding to the work 
involved in keeping these images “off our body.” 

In Pleasure of the Text, Roland Barthes writes, 
“How can the text ‘get itself out’ of the war of 
fictions?” And he answers, “[B]y a gradual labor 
of extenuation ... effecting by transmutation (and 
no longer only by transformation), a new philo- 
sophic state of the language-substance.” In 
Gallagher’s attempt to “get these images off our 
body,” she offers a “language-substance” that aban- 
dons presumed ideas in phrases like “sambo or coon 
lips and eyes.” As she speculates, so must the 
viewer, entering her psychological and subjective 
landscape of not only lips and eyes, but tongues, 
heads, hair, faces, all broken apart into shapes and 
fields, meticulously and laboriously, again and 
again, transmutated, extenuated, painted and then 
re-painted, imagined and then re-imagined. 

Gallagher’s work intersects with the narratives 
of Stowe and Stedman, which rely upon and pur- 
port fictive constructions of race. Topsy’s round 
shining eyes stagger, glittering across Stowe’s page, 
mediating her slave body as it evolves into the 
construction of her black character. And as Joanna’s 
eyes denote “a goodness of the heart,” her face is 
deconstructed down to color and material, “black” 
and “ebony,” then into designations of space, 
where her eyes are “large ” and “full” enough to 
allow any reader to enter the body of a slave, a 
new continent, or both. Gallagher, too, brings the 
viewer into a history of the staggered, fragmented, 
and open black body. She creates a language of 
materials and space, through paint, which under- 
stands that the body works in relation to a set of 
icons whose meanings and affects are constantly 
manifesting within a racialized universe. Here, 
meaning is dislodged from context, implicitly 
uncontained and speculative, unbound by seem- 
ingly fixed historical signs around race. Gallagher 
recognizes 18th- and 19th-century modes of rac- 
ist representations, but reanimates them within her 
own subjective and imagined iconography. 

At P.S. Ts “Greater New York” show this spring, 
I see, finally, in an untitled work from 1996, that 
penmanship paper I had been promised. My own 
eyes drive into the rows of white eyeballs with 
black irises, bobbing around in furious and various 
directions — some aiming to the left, some right, 
some outward towards the viewer, and all set 
within a dense and resistant layer of rabbit skin 
glue. Thin lines of exposed canvas divide each sheet 
of paper, making tiny rope-like gashes, splitting 
some eyes in half. The canvas is marked by several 
small punctures, like stab wounds, interstices 
through which the eyes’ meanings might, at any 
time, slip. Where both Stedman and Stowe offer 



material constructions of “race” that culminate in 
speculative notions of character, Gallagher places 
fissures, splits between the signs. Where there 
should be another eye, perhaps a “jumpin’ jive” 
dismption, Gallagher offers physical and material 
disruption, an open well, another, and then another, 
through which the viewer him or herself might enter 
the canvas, slip behind the surface signs. 

From a distance, the painting could be read as 
Caucasian flesh tint, particularly alongside its com- 
panion here, an untitled work from 1999. I am 
stunned by its pitch blackness, its size (twelve by 
eight feet), as well as its reflective surface of rub- 
ber, paper, and enamel. I turn my head back and 
forth and see a series of reflections — a woman 
wearing a red sweater and white boa, no, not a 
sweater, a jacket; I can, if 1 angle my body, even 
make out her brown hair. I see a small crowd form- 
ing around the painting as 1 stand inches in front 
of its surface. I see myself, but cannot make out 
the color of my eyes. 

There are no lips, no faces, no eyes in the paint- 
ing. There is, however, part of a body — gigantic 
head, neck, and one shoulder turned away from 
the viewer. The fomi is meticulously detailed with, 
amongst other symbols, the S-woosh symbols 
from Drexdya. Where these signs in Drexciya sit 
atop multitudes of nurses’ heads, below white caps 
in an imagined sea, here, the markings are con- 
gealed around one enormous figure, all black and 
building around precise etchings laid on top of one 
another. How do these signs, newly formed, dis- 
rupt any static understanding of the language in 
the earlier paintings? How do they confuse any 
real understanding of one sign as it transmutates 
from one white canvas into the shiny black enamel 
surface of another? To find out, the viewer, like 
me, might turn from one painting to the next, from 
rows of many tiny eyes to a single huge head that 
looks back into it’s own depth. 

Much detail in the left half of the head and torso 
is flattened by a smooth coat of rubber and enamel. 
As though eclipsing her own trail, Gallagher cov- 
ers over even the possibility of reading these signs, 
forcing us back to the reflective black surface. In 
the viewer’s own reflection is Gallagher’s subjec- 
tivity, where meaning manifests through the shared 
labor between painter and viewer. I am taken 
through each intricate detail, and finally to an in- 
scrutable flat black space, to reflect beyond any 
static inscriptions, beyond terms, uncontained and 
staggering, outward and back, to consider, again 
and again, Gallagher’s infinite signs. 

RoitaUo V. Wilson's jfoetry a^’ears in these images. 








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PAGE '48 i PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 



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PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 I PAGE 149 




£vir£i^C,, 




CANDY JERNIGAM, 
POT CRUSHED 
ON HOUSTON. 

C 1985-86 



Evidence: The Art of Candy Jernigan 

Edited by Laurie Dolphin 
Chronicle Boohs 

A copy of Candy Jernigan’s Evidence appeared 
on my porch on a cold, damp day and out 
jumped a world. The broken pieces of experi- 
ence, the crumbs fallen between the cracks, 1 
found refashioned into transport. Once 1 asked 
a Chinese friend of mine about the Chinese no- 
tion of happiness. She told me that the Chinese 
do not pursue happiness. Instead they seek to 
be useful in the world, and from that they gain 
satisfaction. 

Candy Jernigan discovered the utility of 
ephemera — of tom tickets, leaves, food smears, 
restaurant receipts, ashes, dust, boarding passes, 
airplane menus, seeds, sand, pop tops, crack vi- 
als, gum wrappers, cigarette packages, toilet pa- 
per — and from this she gained the pleasure of 
creation. This ephemera, this stuff, is the vo- 
cabulary of her journals, of her witnessing of 
the world, of her marking and tracing her time 
on earth. I did not know Candy, but from what 
I have read, she seems to have deeply affected 
those close to her. She was unlucky in the brev- 
ity of her life, dying of cancer at tliirty-nine, but 
lucky in those friends she had, in their support 
and love for her, and in this wonderful volume of 
her journals they assembled. Married to the com- 
poser Philip Glass, Candy worked in the studio of 
the esteemed graphic designer Paul Bacon, and 
counted among her intimates such notables as 
Chuck Close. Evidence, however, stands fimily on 
ground carefully staked out by Candy herself. 

My favorite section is called “Evidence of 
Travel.” As an inveterate journal-keeper and col- 
lector of bits and pieces myself, pasting my own 
boarding passes and ticket stubs into my note- 
books, I threw myself into the pleasure of traips- 
ing with Candy through Paris, Italy, India, 
Gambia, Brazil, Florida, and Mexico. From her 
collected “evidence” we learn what plants grow 
on the graves of the famous in Pere La-Chaise 
Cemetery, for she has pasted down each leaf, 
carefully noting which illustrious person it is 
attached to. We know what she ate for lunch at 
the Flea Market in Cligancourt because she 
stained her journals with smears of the sausage, 
beer, mustard, frites, hot sauce, and wine she 
devoured. It was a Catalan wine she drank, we 
know, because she enjoyed the label enough to 
soak it off the bottle and stick it in her book. In 
Rome, we learn she was so smitten by St. Peter’s 
she missed an appointment in Trastevere. And 
from the Yucatan, two pages crowded with vi- 
sions of yellow — Chiclets packets, squashed 
Squirt caps, the leaf from an hibiscus plant play- 
ing against the cool ocean blues of a tourist post- 
card — radiate the heat and beauty of the ruins 
of Tulum. 

The sense of urgency, the crammed fullness, 
the slightly messy quality of the design, are what 
I find most compelling about these travel pages. 
She has so much to tell and so much to remember! 
Even more than memory there is the sense that in 
ordering experience, in saving and rationalizing 



all this “stuff,” there is salvation, there is an 
okayness with the world. I feel this most keenly 
in the little plastic bags of dust, sand, cobwebs that 
Candy collects, reminiscent of reliquaries, holy 
earth, the healing power of certain dirt. Again, the 
Chinese. When they leave their birthplace, they 
take a bit of the earth with them, which, wrapped 
in a red bag and placed under their new beds, 
reconnects them with their roots. 

The sections on “Urban Evidence,” “Worldwide f 
Evidence,” “Mathematical Evidence,” and “Evi- | 
dence of Food” have a slightly different tone. A | 
more scientific, systematic, fomial Candy emerges. 
The pages are whiter and cleaner; the “evidence” 
more artfully designed. A more practiced wit and 
humor come into play. In Christinas Tree: Rochefeller 
Center in "Urban Evidence,” we find bits and pieces 
of the famous tree, a tiny twig, a chewed pretzel, 
some electrical wire, splayed out as specimens on 
a white page. In Eonnd Doj>e, Parts I and II, she 
displays the crack vials and transparent dope bags 
she found littered on the streets of her neighbor- 
hood, and then draws us a beautiful map of ex- 
actly where she found them. In Pot Crushed on 
Houston, a squashed aluminum pot is placed against 
an ink-smeared page. On the bottom of the page. 
Candy tells a tiny story in tiny writing about how 
she found the pot, stashed it in her pocketbook, 
and then “forgot it.” This story reveals volumes 
about Candy. How great and huge and interesting 
that pocketbook must have been to have hidden a 
forgotten crushed pot! 

Colored pencil and pastel drawings of pop-tops, 
gum wrappers, matches, ticket stubs note the same 
sort of evidence Candy includes in actual fomi in 
her travel books. Beautifully drawn, reminiscent 
of early David Hockney, these studies seem less 
compelling than when she presents the real thing. 
But perhaps that is the point. Candy plays off the 
actual and the drawn beautifully; in Mexican 
Matches, Yucatan, she juxtaposes nine used, burnt 
matches against nine drawn ones. The eye has a 
marvelous time jumping between the “real” and 
the drawn reality. 

“Landscapes,” “Natural Evidence,” “Psycho- 
logical Evidence,” and “Rejectamenta” possess the 
more personal feel of the travel journals. 
Scribbles, drips, and smears interact with the text 
of dreams, images of flying couches, and glimpses 
of landscapes that flash by as if seen from a speed- 
ing car. These pages feel unsettled, anxious, and, 
particularly in “Psychological Evidence,” display 
the kind of urgency seen in the travel journals. 
This urgency, unlike that in the travel journals, 
is harnessed to an impending sense of mortality 
rather than to the inhalation of experience. 
Phrases such as “Is this it?” and “Gone but not 
forgotten” appear on and haunt these pages. The 
painting is expressive, almost angry. Red and 
black arrows flying against violent swirls of color 
warn us of danger as we contemplate a “real” 
knife and an image of a house with an un- 
grounded antenna. 

One closes this book with the feeling of having 
gone on a wild and glorious ride and regretting 
that it is over so quickly. Transported to lands both 
close to home and foreign, one sees what is familiar 
in a new way and what is unfamiliar with 



immediacy and wonder. You discover what you 
never knew you needed to know. Yes, I want to 
know the difference between a sheet of toilet paper 
taken from the Louvre on April 6, 1982, and one 
liberated from the Pompidou on the 12th of that 
same month. And, yes, of course this particular 
piece can only be titled Afril in Paris. 

—Christina Schlesinger 

Christina Schlesinger is a jrainter, nniralist, and 
maker of artist hooks who lives in East Hantf^ton, 

New York. 




Bewitched Playground 

David Rivard 
Gmywolf Press 

“Caution: Baby on Board.” You could hang that sign 
on David Rivard’s new book of poems. Bewitched 
Playground, and some critics will. But it would serve 
only to trick the small-minded away, or prepare the 
more adventurous reader for a new kind of ride, 
with a brilliant, warping mind behind the wheel. In 
fact. Bewitched Playground is all the more strange and 
seizing for being inhabited by a loving wife and a 
beautiful child. We expect our artists to be tragic, so 
there is something very backward and powerful 
about a gifted poet extending his investigations into 
(at least occasional) domestic daily happiness. 

The Rivard trip began with two earlier, award- 
winning books. Torque and Wise Poison. Fueled by 
experience and disguised as someone like himself, 
Rivard has always driven us straight to the center 
of our own America — the emergency of its exist- 
ences and cast beauty of its singular moments. 
Torque started off, naturally enough, in a hometown, 
on its street comers and bridges, in the factories 
and bars with firemen and aging high school bas- 
ketball stars, often stuck, often drinking. Rivard’s 
controlled abilities are revealed in these early po- 
ems: he takes the battered, used, sometimes beau- 
tiful metal of this life and contorts it into exquisite 
works. The result is not life as it should be, or could 
be, but something of a much more tortured and 
gorgeous utility — how life is, if we look and listen 
honestly. And Rivard’s listening is with the mouth 
and tongue, those muscles of our imagination, the 
tools of poetry. 

There is an Americanness in Rivard’s earlier work 
that our fiction writers endlessly pursue. This is the 
land of factory workers and alcoholics, of Carver 
and Algren. In these fictions, characters arrive at 
some pregnant and awful truth about their human- 
ity, but this intense moment is left silent, untouched 
by authorial intmsion. The climax is so loaded, yet 
so unspoken, that much of these stories’ power 
exists in the reader’s intense desire to know it, to 
have a character intelligent and eloquent enough to 
give this tmth the words it deserves. This is what 
Rivard accomplishes, and it can stun — not because 
he completes some previously unfulfilled narrative, 
but because we are brought to an intimate under- 
standing of American truths. 




With Wise Poison, the Rivard experience escaped 
into the wider world. These are poems of the years 
when “1 kept my own counsel,/ always acting/gen- 
erous & satisfied, an impersonator/of the helpful, 
my plots & schemes/disguised.” This is the poet 
as our own undercover agent — a sly, perfect ob- 
server, writing, it seems, of a time before he real- 
ized he was a writer, but already taking notes with 
a razor eye. 

Rivard’s past work has shown the rich rewards 
of exploring America from the underbelly. (Jon 
Anderson compares him to Kerouac, “not in fomt, 
but in conscience.”) But the power that the lives of 
the down-and-out lends to writing can become an 
easy crutch. The down-and-out and on the fringe, 
after all, don't read the literature that writes them; 
their lives are elsewhere. Our American characters 
articulate their dilemmas, in part because they 
are unaware of them. We, the readers, live here — 
in the well-fed, well-educated America that is an 
altogether different down-and-out. Rivard is smart 
enough to let his material evolve with his talent, 
rather than leaving it behind in the easy and 
practiced dirt. Bewitched Playground takes us to the 
center of what our lives truly are — to the mall, the 
museum, weddings, to car seats and tulip planting, 
to bathing a child. And for this, Rivard’s formidable 
skiO as a poet becomes all the more insidious. He is 
truly among us, and he is watching, listening, letting 
our ordinary, tragic, perfect lives drive his 
imagination. 

Don’t be fooled, these are not New Yorker po- 
ems. These are not familiar, choking emotional ter- 
rain navigated with no harder questioning than, 
“Ho-hum, what is the meaning of human existence 
in late afternoon as the leaves dapple down.” Con- 
fronted with such poetry, many of our most gifted 
younger poets have pulled away, toward a more 
brilliant surface of words. Rivard attacks. He is not 
here to admire the world, to take a warm bath in it, 
nor does he retreat from it, setting himself to some 
abstracted project (perhaps freezing the bathwater 
and breaking it up into jagged glistening chunlcs). 
Rivard goes into the world and, with his presence 
of imagination, reshapes it. 

“Forced to say what living feels like,” begins the 
speaker of “Home,” priming us for a moment of 
reflection. But, immediately, reflection is compli- 
cated: “And then/forced to act out that feeling.” The 
layers of experience are not simply given to this 
speaker, “forced” as he is to a strangely active in- 
quiry. Acting out the feeling of living is a more in- 
volved and inquisitive life than just living. In this 
case, the feeling is “home,” and sometimes hinted 
at even “by something small as the taste say/of 
piped-in 20th-century water./Then it goes. The glass 
empties, & takes/the moment with it. The moment/ 
goes, constantlyZ/Thoughtlessly. Faithfully.” 

The ineffable “it” that we search for, that is both 
abstract and essential in our lives, is given a name 
in this book's opening poem. “My Cliff” is a short, 
singing meditation that serves as invocation and 
prayer. Whether it is to an actual cliff, lover, or muse 
that the poet sings, it is “Like everything else mine — 
//I don’t own it, I walk around outside its life.” But 
the speaker does not lament this gap. Here is a poet 
in partnership with the world, announcing the as- 
sistance we all need to find feeling. “1 lie down// 



Where 1 can be swept by warm rain/that has crossed 
water/deep & so wide/I carmot get over alone.” 

The ordinary things that help us and bring us 
happiness run through the pages of Bewitched Play- 
ground. In “Temptation,” we find that the worst of 
our bargain with these things is that “silently we 
must/as a requirement agree to die.” But those who 
fight this fact, those “melancholiacs who shudder 
among us” who “won’t/be tempted to be ordinary,” 
only make themselves unable to love this life. 

In “What 1 Know,” the happiness of bathing a 
baby daughter is set after two surreal, almost psy- 
chotic, “historical” happinesses — that of a woman 
who remembers “being a cold bullet/fallen in a field 
of/trampled spring clover/without having hit any- 
one/lying there dead or groaning,” and that of a man 
who “remembers so clearly/his life long ago/as that 
aspiring but naive piece of parchment/on which a 
tribe of mistrustful lords/and barons/ wrote the 
Magna Carta.” To that, Rivard can add what he 
knows — and it also comes caught in tangles of 
imagination, in words that drive the tongue to feel 
and fumble with them. He knows “happiness 
squealing.” 

That daily joys and moments produce, and are 
a product of, imagination is intrinsic to the Rivard’s 
process. “America” is the kind of brain-changing, 
culture-crunching poem that shows us the creative 
firepower required to retake the prosaic landscapes 
of our lives. That the poem is set in the weekend 
mall only goes further to suggest it as a modem Ars 
Poetica/Ars Vita. In fact, “it is late Sunday in the brain” 
when the poet encounters a woman breast-feeding 
her eighteen-month-old daughter, and tells her (si- 
lently, to the reader) she might think he is “weird 
enough/to see in the baffling dear creature you are/ 
a classical subject for a civilized poet in an innocent 
land,/such as ours would be./In that poem you 
would still be a woman/but made-out now as a 
beautiful thinly tall broomstick.” /'md he goes on, 
to imagine her, to want to reveal himself to her. 
The poem ends with a plea, a dare almost, for this 
stranger to enter the poet’s imagination, simply by 
asldng her way into it. “I want you to know these 
things.//So what are you waiting for?//Go ahead, 
ask. //Don’t hold your breath, /if you want to 
breathe,/my beautiful broom.” 

This power of imagination that is life, that is 
breath, is so for all of us. The speaker of “Guests of 
the Wedding” imagines an entire life for a tattooed 
“lovely citizen” and then asks, ‘To own another per- 
son, completely, in the imagination./How else do 
you teach yourself/what you wish to become?/And 
isn’t it/one after another after another after another/ 
the many things men & women wish to be?” This 
is the essence of Rivard’s poetic intelligence — to pose 
a question with exacting articulation that is as slip- 
pery as the answers we need. His talent enables 
him to make a pleasurable recitation of questions 
studded with so many addictive syntactical portals 
that our mind demands re-readings. These poems 
are the bewitched playgrounds that keep us gam- 
ing through their curious structures until answers 
come to inhabit our blood unworded, like the plea- 
sured exhaustion of children. 



PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 I PAGE 151 




o 

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Internet 



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is 

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internet theater 
for Provineetown 



provincetowndaily.com 
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phone: 508 487-2811 
snail: Box 128 
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“where art is sweet" 

27h Commercial Street, Provineetown, MA 02657 
Tel. (508) 487-3550 • ITx (508) 487-9563 
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PETER BUSA 

424 Ctimmercial .Street. Provineetown. MA 02657 
tel: 487-4424/fax: 487-4743 




Exquisite construction of the tough questions is 
only one of many methods Rivard uses to dissect 
our minds. Bewitched Playground displays a wide 
range of formal innovation. The torqued and teased 
syntax of this work is as remarkable as tire content 
that drapes over its precise designs. The poet’s use 
of line compresses and accelerates its material, al- 
lowing thoughts to flow hard together, or pace 
rhythmically apart. And, even when the source of a 
poem's inspiration is uncomplicated, Rivard can 
place its speaker at any exact or complex angle. Tliat 
is, exactly where the reader needs to be. 

The poem “Daydream” begins, “Wishes need/ 
people, /constantly.” This exceptional collection 
proves that in the ongoing poetic experiment with 
human needs, David Rivard is one of those rare 
and endangered scientists: he searches without 
destroying. — Robert Strong 

Rohert Strong's i’oetr\’ ayfvars in these yages. 




Seeing Through Places: Reflections 
on Geography and Identity 

by Mary Gordon 
Scribner 

Mary Gordon’s newest book. Seeing Through 
Places: Reflections on Geogra}’hy and Identity, is a beau- 
tiful collection of thematically linked essays that 
revisit the places of her past through the interpre- 
tative lens of the present. The essays, though 
weighted toward childhood — her grandmother’s 
house, her babysitter’s house, camp and 
churches — take us to her current position as an 
English professor at Barnard College. The narra- 
tive is non-chronological — after her father dies 
in one essay, he shows up in the next, jangling 
his pocket change — but is held together by treat- 
ment of place as a condition of the imagination, 
as much as a physical space. Time itself comes 
unmoored from reality as Gordon embraces the 
extra-temporal realities of our lives — the mythic, 
imagistic, metaphoric — even while anchoring her 
writing in the concrete details that give memory 
its powerful hold. 

Gordon, the daughter of an Irish-ltalian 
Catholic mother and a Jewish father who 
converted to Catholicism, grew up post-WW II in 
a Long Island suburb. Her father was an 
intellectually ambitious but financially unsuccessful 
writer; her mother, a secretary, paid the bills. 
Gordon describes her parents as “serious people,” 
brought together by their faith, married on the 
threshold of middle age. Often at odds with her 
mother’s extended family and with the values of 
their suburban community, Gordon’s family found 



togetherness only in its devotion to the Church. 
She writes about herself as an odd, dreamy child, 
at once stubbornly self-sufficient and achingly 
lonely. Growing up in an atmosphere of grave 
spiritual intensity and constant bickering over 
money woes, Gordon often felt like an impostor- 
child, a grown-up in a child’s body. She didn’t see 
the point of other children’s play, and she found 
comfort only in incessant reading and the gloomy 
romance of her parent’s religion {Fifteen Saints for 
Girls was a favorite childhood book). When 
Gordon was seven her father died of a heart attack 
and she and her mother moved into her 
grandmother’s house, a place that haunts this book 
and figures prominently in her struggle for an 
identity independent of her family and religion. 

The opening essay, “My Grandmother’s 
House,” is the tour de force of the book, combining 
the ruminative complexity of a master essayist with 
the inexorable plot pull of a Shakespearean tragedy. 
Before her father’s death, Gordon is often left at 
her grandmother’s house by one of her busy 
parents; she fears this place — its gruesome 
crucifixion paintings, its rectitude — but she also 
“knew it was a privilege to be in that house.” All 
the objects there seem to hearken back to a mythic, 
ancestral past that the young Gordon identifies as 
having “nothing to do with America.” Soon after 
Gordon and her mother move in with her 
grandmother, the interior is redecorated, at the 
insistence of an aunt, in the style of the day. Gordon 
watches as wall-to-wall carpeting is installed, as 
throw pillows replace doilies. “From that day on,” 
Gordon writes, “my grandmother grew old. She 
went on cleaning and cooking, but the charmless 
modem surfaces she tended gave her no joy. For 
the first time in her life, she was the victim of 
minor illnesses. She got colds and sore throats; 
she sprained her ankle; she took naps in the 
afternoon. In a year, she was diagnosed with 
stomach cancer, and in two years she was 
dead.” The permeability between the body and 
its environment is revisited again and again in 
these essays. Indeed, Gordon’s humble subjects 
inspire wide-ranging, meaty ruminations on 
faith, greed, the nature of identity. After 
finishing “My Grandmother’s House” a question 
lingered with me: What cultural and social 
spaces are now being eclipsed in our headlong 
rush toward the new? 

In “Boulevards of the Imagination,” Gordon 
takes New York Gity as her subject. She recalls 
the New York of her girlhood imagination, where 
European war refugees holed up in Gentral Park 
West apartments, playing violins and reading phi- 
losophy, and the New York in which she, as a 
teacher, writer, and culture-creator, has now earned 
a place. Although the adult Gordon’s New York is 
the most “real,” we are left with an indelible sense 
of all these New Yorks existing in tandem — and 
somehow in dialogue. But Gordon can also stick 
to the script when she wants to. “A Room in the 
World” is a fairly traditional treatment of place, a 
paean to the artistic succor and soul-pleasing 
beauty Gordon found while summering in a Truro 
beach house. 



PAGE 152 i PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 





The dialectic of the Catholic struggle — between 
sin and absolution, guilt and grace — forms a 
powerful current in Gordon’s writing. Her faith can 
be traced from a devout, obsessive variety, to a 
more self-accepting and joyous kind that she begins 
to discover while in Rome, sitting in the shadow 
of Saint Peter’s, with her “back turned on the 
Vatican.” In contemplating issues of faith, Gordon’s 
metaphorical language sometimes fails her. Take, 
for example, an episode involving Father B., a 
liberal priest, who often visits the family. Gordon's 
father regularly yells at Father B. for his 
“unorthodox” views on Church doctrine, then falls 
to his knees and asks Father B. for his blessing. 
This ritual fills Gordon with alarm. “I knew 
everything this was supposed to mean: that it 
didn’t matter that my father had insulted Father B. 
as a man; the office of the priesthood was infinitely 
respectable and humbling ... 1 didn’t believe in the 
possibility of this division of identity — the object 
of scorn, the sacred vessel; the persecutor, the 
humble penitent — although it was part of my faith 
to do so.” She concludes, “In resisting this tableau 
I knew that I transgressed, but I felt I was right, 
and my sense of rightness was the first window 
letting in a disturbing light that fell straight onto 
the white stone of ancient practice.” Since this was 
the first hint of Gordon’s lasting relationship with 
her childhood faith, I wanted to understand exacdy 
what she was talking about: what Catholic 
doctrine decrees such a dual identity? How, exacdy, 
has her opinion of this doctrine changed over the 
years? What would this mean to her relationship 
to her faith, the tenets of which were so inseparable 
from her upbringing? “White stone of ancient 
practice” is a beautiful metaphor, but its power is 
aesthetic rather than truly descriptive of a moment 
that I, as a non-Catholic, wanted to understand. 

In “The Architecture of a Life with Priests,” 
Gordon recalls the priests she knew as a child, and 
in so doing contemplates the border between the 
sacred and the ordinary. Gordon’s devout parents 
were introduced by a priest and, growing up, the 
Ghurch functioned as a sort of extended family. 
“There was a way in which the sacred spaces that 
we lived by were transportable, or portable, and 
that is because every place a priest visited, every 
place he stopped or stayed, became, by that virtue, 
and for those hours, sacred.” Gordon accompanied 
her mother (who was something of a priest 
groupie) when she drove Father B. to visit with his 
aged mother in a depressing New jersey apartment. 
“Father B. would clear space on the dresser and 
say Mass. ... After the ritual moment, the 
apartment became its ordinary cavernous self; the 
light of the sacrament went out, and it was only a 
place inhabited by an old lady, with the unfresh 
smell of overworn taffeta and perfume with a used 
floral scent.” Although Gordon develops a more 
complicated, personalized relationship with 
Gatholicism, she cannot give up her faith in a 
priest’s ability to transform ordinary places into 
sacred places. The implications are too disorienting. 
“If a priest was a man, like any other ... he was 
emptied of potential to transform the places where 
he’d rest, impermanently, his anointed head. And 
these transformations were the only ones I could 



imagine myself a part of. So 1, too, would be 
deprived of transformation.” 

It occurs to me that I’ve focused on Gordon’s 
childhood essays here, which points me toward a 
paradox in her writing: as the essays approach the 
presumably more lucid present in Gordon’s life, 
the writing is in fact less emotionally vivid, less 
inhabited. The beauty of her sentences, the acuity 
of her observations, feel as if they are being of- 
fered in place of the searching emotional curiosity 
of the earlier memories. The lovely and masterful 
writing begins to seem like a reliquary whose con- 
tents are being safe-guarded, much like the regal 
New York Gity institutional architecture she writes 
about so admiringly. In the final pages of the book, 
she tells us, “The great buildings I staked my 
dreams on are no longer marked for me by their 
emptiness. I use them; they are places where I 
work. I no longer walk silent, awestruck in the 
New York Public Library; it is a place I do research. 
I look at paintings in the Metropolitan Museum 
mostly for the refreshment of my soul, but some- 
times to write about them. And some days, when 
I am on the East Side and I want a place to write 
for an hour or so, I sit at the tables in the European 
sculpture wing, turn my back on a Rodin, sip a 
cappuccino, and look out the large windows at 
the park. ... I need these great buildings, what they 
provide, what they suggest, for my work.” 

But here’s the thing: it’s hard to imagine a pub- 
lic building having a private life. Like institutional 
architecture, which can deflect private revelation 
and intimidate us in the silence of its unimpeach- 
able existence, the final essays in this book frus- 
trate me. I feel that I’ve lost connection with 
the complex emotional terrain of Gordon’s life. 
Even basic, orienting, biographical details become 
sketchy and when they come, they come at 
strange points. I spent much of “Boulevards of 
the Imagination” thinking that Gordon was di- 
vorced (though she talks about her family, she 
never mentions her husband), only to find Gor- 
don, at the very end, referring to herself as “mar- 
ried.” Perhaps Gordon was leery of impinging on 
her family's privacy? Or perhaps the distant past 
acquires a romantic glow that inspires imagina- 
tion, an inspiration that didn’t transfer to her adult 
life? Seeing Through Places ends with Gordon look- 
ing with wonder at her life — at where she is now — 
and saying with pride and gratitude, “I am here.” 
But where is here, precisely? I want to share in 
Gordon’s victory but I’m not familiar enough with 
the battles of her adult life to do that. In the end 
though, this criticism does little to diminish the 
power of the book. The striking, potent, and origi- 
nal meditations on the relationship between the 
self and its environment give Seeing Through Places 
a rare power — the power to sanctify memory 
through metaphor, and the self through language. 

— Sari Wilson 

Sari Wilson was a 1 999-2000 writing fellow at the 
Fine Arts Work Center and is a former Stegner Fellow 
at Stanford. Her fiction has af yeared in New York 
Stories and Maxine: A Magazine for Ghurlish 
Girls and Rakish Women. She is front Brooklyn. 



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Six Figures 

by Fred G. Leebron 
Kuof^ 




SIX figures 




No one worries the way Warner Lutz worries. 
Warner has more anxiety before breakfast than 
most of us have in a whole week, and he doesn't 
even trade stocks or build software. Actually he 
works in non-profits. In the South. Lutz worries 
about the kids, his wife, his job, money, and 
house-hunting. He has desires (for quieter kids, a 
less controlling wife, autonomy at work, more 
money, a bigger house), and then worries about 
his desires. Although he wants his presidential 
vote to mean something, when he accidentally 
hits the wrong lever in tire voting bootli, he con- 
tinues to vote the wrong ticket rather than lin- 
ger and risk an upset with the baby, drooling 
onto his neck. More anxiety awaits: even if he 
could always put his son first, Warner suspects 
that he will unintentionally damage the child, as 
though injuring others were an inborn knack. 

With Warner this does seem to be a distinct 
possibility. As the main character in Fred G. 
Leebron’s second novel, Warner can’t win for 
trying, although it’s unclear to everyone, includ- 
ing Warner, just how much effort he’s putting 
into the project. Half frothing bull, half curled- 
up leafy chrysalis, Warner drinks a mug of vodka 
in the morning then crawls under his son’s crib 
for relief. What has happened to his marriage? 
Why do others get the rewards he doesn’t — 
hasn’t he given his life to service? Warner’s intel- 
ligent, if petulant, perspective on the upper 
middle-class (okay, the rich snobs) of North Caro- 
lina is familiar — aren’t his desires ours? Aren’t 
his anxieties ours, too? Warner is just less ca- 
pable of smoothing out the unsightly edges. 

Six Figures, divided into six sections, like life 
into categories, and labeled “Mornings,” “Work,” 
“January,” “Exposure,” “Home,” and “Aftemiath,” 
quickly overflows this ironically neat partition- 
ing. Seeing how Warner can’t figure out how to 
cap his anxiety so as to end it, life — which al- 
ways knows the worst or the very thing you 
need — steps in and doles out an act of horrible 
violence that threatens to destroy Warner and 
his family. The novel, which to this early point 
progresses like a chronicle of unfulfilled middle- 
class American life at the end of the 20th cen- 
tury, now rapidly alters, becoming a suspense 
novel with the nervous edge of a whodunit. “Janu- 
ary,” the longest and central section, comes at 
you like a missile, although the actual crisis passes 
quickly and what grips us is all fallout. Leebron’s 
story, after all, is the antithesis of a real who- 
dunit; the supposed assailant is instantly identi- 
fied by the descending new god of the house, 
Warner’s mother-in-law, whose accusations seep 
like a contagion from her to the police and to nearly 
everyone else involved. 



But Leebron doesn’t want us to quite believe 
what they believe; the accusation is too bitterly 
motivated, the accused not quite convincing as 
such. This tension between apparent guilt and 
actual culpability is masterfully designed and ex- 
ecuted. As a strategy it suggests that the pursuit 
of a single person to blame for all our woe is 
irrelevant. Yet the naming of a culprit, the goal 
foremost in almost every character’s mind, al- 
lows the story to proceed with what has always 
been, we discover, the real issue: perhaps we can 
never tmly know anyone, and if this is found to 
be so, must our lives shut down? Leebron takes 
up this question with ferocious concern. Is the 
life we pursue only a phantom, unattainable, and 
the people never who we thought they were or 
wanted diem to be? Perhaps dispensing with our 
desires can show us what has been there all along 
as an antidote — loyalty, and unexpected reposi- 
tories of familial love. 

Leebron’s novel is deft and unpredictable in 
its negotiations of the ambiguous boundaries be- 
tween people and in its portrait of our frustrated 
ability to experience the same reality as those 
around us. His characters are extraordinarily pal- 
pable, even the two young children. The baby’s 
personality is impressively inked with a Ror- 
schach of his parents’ ability to show affection, 
to injure, and to betray. Leebron traverses the 
days and the perspectives of his characters with 
ease and purpose, roving from Warner to his wife, 
Megan, to their parents and back again, navigat- 
ing adeptly between various states of conscious- 
ness and emotional readiness. The prose, at first 
seemingly so smooth as to slip you along like a 
puck on ice, soon reveals its acrobatic abilities, 
bending syntax into the dreamy unreality of an 
emerging coma state: 

She sank deep into the pillow and let the children control 
the bed. Soon she heard the television click on, but she 
couldn't lift her eyes. She couldn’t see. Her head felt heavy, 
pointed, and she knew she should call the nurse, but Daniel 
had the control and she couldn’t seem to reach it. Just reach 
it, she thought. Just lift your hand. It weighed too much, 
attached to her wrist like that, anchored to her arm, her 
shoulder glued in its socket. Just move. Oh god, she was 
tired. ... It wouldn’t be good to drift off like this, with the 
children here. Her mother would disconnect the phone. 
She’d be disconnected. She was disconnected. 

I missed a more concentrated foray into the 
depth of Warner’s crisis — the five solitary days 
he must spend in the knowledge of everything 
he may have lost, which ultimately substanti- 
ates his emergence from the man he was. 
Leebron’s command of his story is otherwise 
complete, and if the novel’s resolution edges to- 
ward tidiness, we must remind ourselves that, 
after all, abject tragedy is not the only mode life 
knows how to play, and real resolution arises 
out of complex materials worked to their full- 
est. This is certainly the case with Six Figures. 

—Sheila P. Donohue 

Sheila P. Douohue teaches in the English Deirartnient 
at Northwestern University. Her work has keen 
imblished in numerous literary magazines, including 
The Threepenny Review and TriQuarterly. 



PAGE 154 1 PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 



Lawnboy 

by Paul Lisicky 
Turtle Point Press 

Adolescent angst is a staple of the bihiimgsroman, 
where bouts of desperation and despair are as 
chronic as acne, and the pendulum swing between 
naivete and cynicism as erratic as a teenager’s hor- 
mones. Paul Lisicky 's debut novel, Lmmhoy, pushes 
beyond the usual tensions of the coming-of-age 
genre with distinctly fresh subject matter, and a 
defiandy honest narrator. 

Evan Sarshik, on the cusp of adulthood, feels 
grievously misunderstood, confused by his awak- 
ening homosexuality, and plagued by his longing 
to leave the nest of his parents’ home. Family life 
accounts for a good part of Evan’s angst. His par- 
ents, Sid and Ursula, often go for days without 
speaking to one another. Peter, Evan’s older and only 
brother, has run away from home. Evan himself is 
isolated and bitter, trying to be the good son while 
yearning for a life beyond his parents’ circumscribed 
plans. Fixed in their “silences and resentments,” Sid 
and Ursula, Evan tells us, “never dealt with any- 
thing. The same way they couldn’t deal with me. I 
mean, I didn’t mince or prance. I didn’t weave, I 
didn’t dot my 'i's' with circles or curlicues, but my 
eminent faggotry should have been obvious to them. 
Hello, Ursula. Hello, Sid. Knock, knock. Anybody 
home?” 

Still in high school, Evan attempts to avoid ridi- 
cule, mastering a bouncy-kneed “guy walk.” His 
only close friend is a straight girl named Jane. He 
desperately wants to connect with a man, prefer- 
ably a lover. When his middle-aged neighbor, Will- 
iam, comes by to ask if he'd like a lawn mowing 
job, a spark of sexual tension flares, and Evan sets 
his sights on sleeping with the man. 

Though he is basically sweet and naive, there is 
a distinctly bad boy side to Evan, and it is much to 
Lisicky’s credit that he avoids lavishing his protago- 
nist with idealized authorial affection. Instead he 
reveals a fully dimensional character, depicting both 
Evan’s charm and his less appealing, even repul- 
sive, traits. While in bed with William, his thoughts 
range from tender musings about the older man’s 
freckled back to a violent desire to attack him in his 
sleep. Later in the novel, he betrays his bisexual 
brother by arranging for Peter’s boyfriend to find 
him in bed with a woman. Most often, though, Evan 
manages to surprise and amuse the reader while 
also winning our sympathy, as when, at age seven- 
teen, he receives a dose of corporal punishment from 
his father: “He didn’t punch me; he didn’t do what 
any regular father would do. Instead he drew me to 
him, somehow rolled me over his knee like a pup- 
pet, and — get this — started spanking my clothed 
butt for a good half-minute or so. It was such a comic 
thing that I let him do it until we both filled up with 
shame. ‘Happy, buddy boy?’ I said.” 

Evan attempts, for a time, to be the son his par- 
ents want him to be. He stops seeing William, ex- 
cels at school, helps out around the house. But he 



cannot sustain the role. Eventually he packs his suit- 
case and runs away from home — down the street 
to William’s. In time he concludes that their rela- 
tionship is nearly as superficial as that with his par- 
ents, and once again he packs a bag and runs away — 
this time heading south to find his brother. 

The trek serves as a metaphor for Evan’s iden- 
tity search, and underscores one of the book’s cen- 
tral themes — the desire for connection. In spite of a 
series of separations and painful losses, Evan can’t 
deny his need to meet someone, to share himself, 
to please and be pleased. It becomes a driving force 
that shapes him according to the expectations of 
his man-of-the-hour. 

When his brother takes him in and hires him to 
work at the mn-down hotel he’s purchased, Peter’s 
boyfriend. Hector, becomes one of Evan’s closest 
confidants. There are no longer the confines of the 
closet to contend with, but Evan is awkwardly shy 
about seeking a community, his reluctance intensi- 
fied by Hector’s stories of the scores of friends he’s 
lost to AIDS. 

It’s here that Lisicky does an especially fine job 
of portraying the dread and resignation so preva- 
lent in the shadow of the current pandemic. In his 
attentiveness to the complexities of being a gay male 
in late 20th-century America, he focuses a sharp 
eye for details on the havens of safe sex, from the 
“wadded tissues on the floor” and the “fruity me- 
tallic smell” of the adult bookstore arcades, to a so- 
called “J-0 party ... a great room, perhaps forty feet 
long, its concrete floor covered with a plastic tarp, 
on which a hundred men of all ages, races, and lev- 
els of attractiveness were clumped in threes and 
fours, standing in their perfect underwear and Doc 
Martens, leaning into each other, jerking off.” His 
accumulation of unflinching observations finally 
makes Lawnboy not just a compelling story, but a 
documentary page from our time. 

The spectre of AIDS also haunts Evan as he tries 
to define what has been holding him back for so 
long. “I’d never believed in the possibility of my 
own future . . . my lack of faith had infused aU my 
decisions, a low-grade fear and rage burning at the 
heart of everything, from why I’d stopped going to 
the dentist to my lack of organization to my hasty 
decisions about coOege, money, boyfriends.” This 
recognition resonates as an epiphany for the reader, 
but Evan is slower to realize how his failure to con- 
nect with others is a result of his own willful de- 
tachment. It is not until after he’s fled his brother’s 
home that he begins to see how true connection 
requires more than mere physical attraction. 

Lawnboy ends on an upbeat note. Though there 
lingers the suggestion that nothing is permanent, 
that love and happiness are serendipitous accidents 
and often fleeting, Evan has discovered an antidote 
to the pain of loss. Ultimately this is a story about 
hope, and the endless possibilities of the future. 

— Dorothy Antczak 

Dorothy Antczak is a fiction writer and freelance 
journalist who lives in Provincetown. In her sjmre time 
she waits tables, manages the gallery at the Fine Arts 
Work Center and tends Stanley Knnitz's garden. 




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SOME ETHER 



Some Ether 

by Nick Flynn 
Gray wolf Press 

Maybe we all have the same inner life, just in 
different proportions. That’s why folktales and 
fairytales, not to mention the Oedipus story and 
Sappho’s poems, speak to us in universal ways. 
Midas turned his honey into money, and we get 
that. Icarus forgot the sunblock and paid for it. 

I have never had wings or put my eyes out, but 1 
know what it is to be sunburned and blind. 

Nick Flynn’s first collection of poems. Some 
Ether, circulates around a terrible story, the suicide 
of the poet’s mother, and the long destructive re- 
verberation of that act inside the psyche of the 
speaker. In that sense it is as sensational and rivet- 
ing, as recognizable, as any memoir in this era of 
memoirs. Call it confessional poetry, if you like. 
Or “a survivor's story.” It is all of those things, but 
it i. also poetry, and what good poetry can do is 
make a spiderweb shake as sofdy as a breath, bring 
the dead fly back to life, and follow the threads of 
that spiderweb into the distance of its unforesee- 
able attachments. These poems tell a drastic story, 
but they tell it with such delicacy and insight that 
it resonates in the inner life of anyone who has 
received serious damage — and who hasn’t? 

The epigraph that opens Some Ether, a quote 
from the British psychoanalyst D.W. Winnicott, 
is too good not to repeat: “It is joy to be hidden, 
but disaster not to be found” — a pretty mythic 
tale itself. In his best poems, Nick Flynn speaks 
the vernacular of the unconscious, which both 
hides and finds beautifully. The poems demon- 
strate that, even in woundedness, some kind of 
wit is possible, as in “Other Meaning”: “Coming 
home from the drive-in, asleep under/blankets in 
the vast backseat//my mother full of attention to 
the road/...l remember a chair, a maroon &//vel- 
vet throne,/! fell asleep in it once//under a glacier 
of coats/as a patty raged around me. Only later 
did I leam//the other meaning of »wroo/t — //of sail- 
ors, whole families, put out to sea/in inadequate 
lifeboats, left to drink their own piss//& pull gulls 
from the sky.” 

From throned king to castaway, isn’t that the 
journey of the male child? Deposed, abandoned, 
and distressed, the profound wound of desertion 
is the center of this book, and the poems are full of 
such brilliant images of connection and 
separation — in one poem the child speaks to the 
mother through a long cardboard tube; in another, 
the speaker addresses the ghost of the mother in 
an image that precisely figures the bond between 
the dead and the living, which is also a kind of 
bondage: “You without a body without a compass 
without oars/your hands are useless in this world,/ 
resting on my shouldersZ/trying to steer.” 

The powerful, grief-stricken stories in Some Ether 
are richly dramatic and moving in themselves. One 
powerful poem depicts the mother contemplating 




her gun; another retells the flashbacks of a Viet | 
Nam vet boyfriend. But because Flynn is so psy- i 
chologically canny, the dominant concern of these j 
poems evolves as you read it; becomes not the \ 
dreadful fact of the mother’s suicide, but the ques- j 
tion of whether or not the speaker can stop re- 
playing the tragedy. The dilemma is familiar and 1 
terrible: how a loyalty to the past can mean never i 
fully belonging to the present. Images of paralysis, j 
detacliment, and invisibility appear throughout the j 
book, as in “The Robot Moves”: “As a kid/1 made j 
up a game/where I would turn into a robot, /cruel ! 
& lifeless, & it wouldn’t matter/if you were my ; 
best friend, I’d turn on you/. . . no matter how much 1 
you’d plead,/ 1 don't want to ylay this game, because/ 
something inside had turned, something/essential, 
that couldn’t be repaired/with words.” 

Or, conversely, images of being overwhelmed, 
as in this rich passage from the poem “Flood”: 
“Yesterday/the river broke its banks/& flooded the 
cemetery, washing away/Ztopsoil, collapsing 
tombstones. It lifted//the caskets from their graves,/ 
left someone’s motlier in a tree, delivered a stillborn/ 
/to the wrong family. Ten strangers/floated into the 
parking lot & lined their caskets up/as though 
anxious for the ruined market/ to open.” 

Here, as in the poet’s psyche, the dead are still 
getting around town, and the water, of course, is 
the uncontrollable unconscious. Flynn’s great 
strength is such intuitive, figurative richness. In one 
of her tart essays, ‘The Forbidden,” the poet Louise 
Gliick attacks a certain contemporary poetic 
genre — poetry that enacts what she calls the “fairy 
tale” of therapy. Such poems, she says, present the 
victims as heroes, and imply that simply by the 
act of telling, the teller will be healed, cured, and 
freed. Experience says otherwise. One of the in- 
tegrities of Flynn’s book is that it doesn’t make 
any such promise. There is no clear indication that 
the speaker’s damage can be triumphed over — no 
promise that any of us recover from anything. In 
fact, in Some Ether there is more than one refuta- 
tion of the confessional mode: “You know the way 
Jesus//rips open his shirt/to show us his heart, all 
flaming and thorny, /the way he points to it./. . . My 
version of hell/is someone ripping open his/shirt 
& saying,///oofc what I did for yon. 

There is a nakedness, elegance, and emotional 
intelligence everywhere in this fine collection. The 
poems are beautifully clear in their particulars and 
meanings. The title Some Ether sounds like a re- 
quest for anesthetic, but it is in fact an eloquent 
exhibition of the sleeper stubbornly trying to wake 
up. Suffering is where consciousness comes from. 
Maybe some wounds never entirely heal, but, 
transfomied, they can become an aperture through 
which light shines on what we are. Which makes 
it possible to limp into the new world, one step at 
a time. 

— Tony Hoagland 

Tony Eloagland is a former fellow of the Eine Arts 
Work Center whose most recent hook of yoems is 
Donkey Gospel, imblished by Graywolf Press. 



PAGE 156 I PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 




THE 

KINGDOM OF 

THE SUBJUNCTIVE 



The Kingdom of the 
Subjunctive 

by Suzanne Wise 
Alice Jcuties Booh 

From its title onward, Suzanne Wise’s first 
collection of poems has an invigoratingly self- 
assured, empowered, almost cavalier tone. Divided 
into five sections, these taut narrative poems are 
excursions within the lyric tradition. Playful and 
energetic, they toy with foma just when they seem 
to be getting comfortable with it. There is the 
mock-confessional poem, “Confession,” which is 
actually overtly confessional, the sort of imagism- 
once-removed of “A Girl’s Life,” and the ubiquitous 
couplet utilized throughout, sometimes end- 
stopped, sometimes enjambed, but never rhyming. 
It is Wise’s discursive meditative line, a la Wallace 
Stevens, coupled with her meticulous attention to 
the musicality of that line, that make her poems 
resonate with lilting cadences. Neither the opaque 
materiality of language nor its potential for 
transparency seem to be Wise’s concern here; she 
deploys the words that best state her case, but 
pointedly and in a way that sounds “right.” There 
is an inevitability that gives the poems a 
sophisticated resoluteness. It luul to be said this way. 

And sound right they do. “Highway to English” 
begins with a melodic repetition of vowel sounds 
so breathtaking it ought to be set to music. The 
gnashing together of sounds at each line ’send both 
familiarizes and defamiliarizes what may or may 
not be the poet’s native tongue: 

No one would come this way for consolation. 

It is a finished and unfinished excursion. 

Tlie stone horses are still drowning in the fountain. 

The stuffed horses are still prancing at the ramparts. 

Everything roadside pretends it is accidental. 

Everything that has survived is in rehearsal. 

The fullness of the repeated sounds — 
consolation/excursion, finished/unfinished, 
drowning/fountain, prancing/ramparts, accidental/ 
rehearsal — gives the reader a sense of being stuffed 
with meaning, both informed and confounded. 
The highway figures both metaphorically and 
metonymically in this poem, standing in for the 
journey to meaning that is at once arduous and 
straight-ahead. The loaded notion of a “native 
tongue” becomes central as more and more poems 
deal with the problem of translation, frustrated 
silences, and unintelligibility. 

While language as physical matter presents it- 
self in varying degrees of materiality, language as 
means of communication is problematized 
throughout the book. German plays a central part 
in this problematic; perhaps the poet is of Ger- 
man descent but speaks only a bit of the lan- 
guage herself. In any case, the irreconcilability 
of German and English (and by implication, of any 




two languages), and the arbitrary nature of the iso- 
lated word, are palpable. The very question of a 
“native” language becomes suspect; is the task to 
learn German, or to unlearn English? To unlearn 
German? The opacity of a “foreign” language, be it 
native or new, is foregrounded. We are confronted 
with a wall of sound, as in “Was heisst 
Rechtfertigung? Bewaltigung der Vergangenheit,” 
a sort of phonetic “translation,” and in “Nicht” 
where, to begin with, we are bombarded by a litany 
of negative constructions (“nicht,” “nicht wahr," 
“noch nicht,” “nicht mehr,” etcetera) before wit- 
nessing the meeting of nicht and night. 

History, to be sure, is insidiously entangled in 
this web of language, and inevitably drags iden- 
tity along with it. In “Signing Up,” a girlie pen 
featuring a woman stripped when the pen is in 
use, enacts a violation visited upon the subjec- 
tivity it helps to write, “leaking signatures across 
the declaration of war.” The girl herself wears a 
“swimsuit of ink,” a businessman “loses himself in 
the draining out,” and so on. We are continually 
written into and out of history, and our only weap- 
ons are the very words that inflicted our wounds. 
Writing our own histories becomes essential, and 
there are glimpses of “autobiography” throughout 
this book. We come away with a proliferation of 
parts — “I am all tiny bits;” “I am a king’s;” “I drive 
a hard bargain, selling/myself short, demanding 
less and less;” “I was very prolific in my generat- 
ing qualities;” “ I lived for love. 1 erred accordingly;” 
“I was misunderstood” — but “she would rather not 
be a complete sentence, completely sentenced.” 

It is perhaps the unwillingness to be “sentenced” 
that gives way to equivocation, or oblique 
reference. Everywhere in these poems there is the 
sense of hesitation, starting over, silence, and 
apology, but also of indictment and transgression. 
As Wise states it, “I have learned that my gender is 
still a risky situation,” and one that often comes to 
blows. The poet takes refuge in vernacular and 
idiosyncrasy, and Suzanne Wise has found an 
idiom that fits her, if a bit uncomfortably at times. 
Her work reflects a willfulness and a perseverance 
that are ultimately the best revenge. 

—Elizabeth Fodaski 

Elizabeth Fodashi is the author of fracas (Knif ’skaya, 
1999)- She lives and teaches in New York City. 



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& Frank Perkins. 



PAGE 158 I PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 



J. ,Vt. r oetree 




Disgrace 

by J. M. Coetzee 
Viking 

Works as diverse as The Invisible Alan, Black Like 
d/e, Notes of a Native Son, Mississigi’i Burning, The 
Asghalt Jangle, Guess Who's Coining to Dinner, Ameri- 
can Historv X, Colors, Master HaroU and the Boys, 
Uncle Tom's Cabin, Huckleberry Finn, the films of 
Spike Lee, and the music of Public Enemy have 
addressed the seething ideological, political, and 
psychological conflicts between black and white 
people. These works have, both subtly and 
bluntly, suggested that intelligent audiences re- 
spond to this situation — either in a local or a glo- 
bal way. It is a different accomplishment entirely 
to take a scenario, fictional or otherwise, in which 
skin color has caused great rifts between individu- 
als and whole sectors of society, and elevate the 
scenario to unexpected heights by plumbing its 
philosophical depdis. Such examination raises, but 
does not answer, exceedingly thorny questions 
about culpability, guilt, social erosion, necessity, 
and survival. The most likely response to these 
questions is self-examination, which may lead to 
die revelation that we can change the world, or 
at least our own oudook, with courage and self- 
extension. J.M. Coetzee’s Disgrace, a remarkable and 
moving story of life in contemporary South Africa 
and winner of the 1999 Booker Prize, demands just 
such a discovery. 

In the first half of die novel, David, a divorced 
professor of communications at Cape Technical 
College in Cape Town, has an affair with a young 
student in a rush of uncontrollable middle-aged 
sexual desperation. When called before an 
examining board of his peers, he displays litde guilt. 
Tlie board rules to dismiss him. The novel's second 
phase begins when the humiliated professor dees 
to his daughter Lucy’s farm in the country to gather 
his wits. Soon after his arrival, a group of black 
youths rapes Lucy, assaults David, and burglarizes 
the fami. Because the teenage boys are members 
of the largely black community in which Lucy lives, 
Lucy risks further harm to herself and her father if 
she seeks legal protection. David eventually returns 
to Cape Town, unable to help his daughter find a 
way through her entropic life. There he finds that 
his apartment has been ransacked, and that another 
professor has taken his office at the college. He 
returns to the country — seeking an “utter stillness 
which he would wish prolonged forever” — 
accepting the simple, unintellectual life there as 
the lesser of two evils. Soon after his return, 
however, he is shocked to learn that Lucy was 
impregnated during the rape; her inner turmoil over 
whether or not to keep the child wrenches her 
father as well. 

Noticeable immediately in this novel is a crisp, 
brisk, almost journalistic tone that contrasts with 
the meditative texture of Coetzee’s earlier books, 
and contributes to an evenhanded recounting of 
plot events, as if the author himself were not arbiting 



right or wrong, but merely telling a story. This style 
also brings the urgency of his subject home to read- 
ers. Coetzee focuses here on telling a good story, 
though readers of Waiting for the Barbarians and The 
Heart of the Coimtr]’ know that he has always writ- 
ten proficient moral and spiritual thrillers. The tran- 
sition between the book’s two narrative halves, for 
instance, is surprising and shrewd. Both parts of the 
book contain a misdeed at tiieir center, and yet in 
neither case can readers clearly identify a culprit. 
To many, tampering with the mind of a woman at 
a highly impressionable age, and refusing to admit 
to the seriousness of such actions, would be detest- 
able. And yet David’s “victim” is portrayed as a flirt 
who pays her professor a great deal of attention. 
Coetzee places judgment in readers’ hands. The 
professor’s retreat into the country might seem the 
first step of a slow, pathetic slide into anonymity 
from a position of respect. Oddly enough, when he 
undergoes physical and psychological humiliation, 
we pity him, as we might pity Job. His city crimes, 
scandalous in tiie cloistered world of the academy, 
become piddling by comparison with the acts of 
his attackers. Or do tiiey? The boys’ attack on David 
and Lucy could be read as an act of racial vengeance, 
spurred by years of oppression. If this is the case, 
should David and Lucy pay the price on behalf of 
all white people? Whose side do we take? 

Disgrace weakens in the rare moments when it 
appears, in spite of itself, to take a side. In one 
scene, David’s college-age lover’s churlish, tough 
boyfriend confronts the professor in his office. The 
moment almost resembles pure fantasy, a 
showdown between two romantic rivals in which 
the cuckolded boyfriend, unlikeable as he may be, 
clearly has the moral upper hand. In another scene, 
David sees his daughter’s main attacker at a party 
in the town where they live and can do nothing to 
them, buffered as he is by his community. The boy 
need only ask a simple question — ‘Who are you?” — 
to make David feel like “the stranger, the odd one 
out.” The scene is frightening, almost timeless, but 
again smacks of card-stacking — which has no place 
in a novel as high-minded as this one. We suddenly 
want David to seize the moment, avenge the 
injustice — or do we? The history of apartheid and the 
greater injustices it has justified forbid easy answers. 

Coetzee has written a novel in which crucial 
events have a profound moral doubleness. None 
of tbe dilemmas at this novel’s heart are exactly 
what they seem, and the conclusion rends us, in 
its own quiet way. Ascending from an academic 
scandal to a sociopolitical catastrophe. Disgrace 
hinges on the symbiotics of emotion and social 
structure, and is well-served by Coetzee’s keen, 
panoramic vision. Coetzee rouses our compassion 
with a tale that tests our spiritual endurance as it 
stretches our capacity for moral consideration. 

—Max Winter 

Alax Winter's gociiis have apf’cared in Paris 
Review, The New Republic, Boulevard, 

Colorado Review, Denver Quarterly, Volt 
and elsewhere. He is Associate Editor of Fence. 



Equal Love 

by Peter Ho Davies 
Mariner Books/ 

Houghton Mifflin Conif’any 

In Equal Love, Peter Ho Davies' shimmering and 
heartfelt second collection of fiction, characters 
struggle with issues of balance, trust, fear, and class 
as they move in the worlds of parenthood, 
romance, family, and work. Even more graceful 
and humane than Davies’ stunning first collection. 
The Ugliest House in the World, these new stories 
recall Joyce’s Dubliners; they follow trajectories of 
personal and public responsibility, while at the 
same time retaining and expanding the farflung 
inventiveness that has marked Davies as one of 
today's most distinctive short story writers. 

In the opening story, “The Hull Case,” Davies 
artfully portrays the dilemma of a childless in- 
terracial family in 1950s America as they struggle 
to testify about their disparate recollections re- 
garding the apparent visitation of an alien space- 
ship. A sense of overwhelming fear permeates 
this tale, as the black husband, Henry, feels both 
his sense of reality and his actual reality slipping 
away. “He was afraid of losing her, he knew, 
though the admission, so abject and ineffectual, 
shamed him. But behind that fear was another — 
a dim, formless dread of his own children and 
what they might mean for the precarious bal- 
ance of his marriage, which made him shudder.” 
The central irony of this complicated vision is 
that while the white wife, Helen, does not al- 
ways believe Henry’s perceptions of the racial 
tensions he faces in their everyday life, she is 
further distanced from him because of his fail- 
ure to believe in her perceptions of the supposed 
alien encounter. 

Definitions of bravery further feature in the 
appropriately named “Brave Girl,” a slyly funny 
tale about a ten-year-old girl and her hapless fa- 
ther, a dentist who takes his daughter to work ev- 
ery day during the last summer that they will ever 
spend together. The mother has deserted with a 
captain from the Territorial Army, “a gynecologist 
in real life” the brave girl explains, “and on Sunday 
I would go away to live with my mother and Cap- 
tain Cunt.” The father, while cowardly, is also chari- 
table, and teaches her about the delicate balance 
between love and fear. “I told him I knew he loved 
me,” she tells us. “And I did. But I also knew I was 
the only one left for him to love, and ... it made me 
worry that I didn’t love him enough. I didn’t want 
to choose. I already felt sorry for him because my 
mother had left. I tried to make up for it by being 
good.” About her mother, she says, “I loved her too, 
of course, but next to fear, love just didn’t seem like 
a useful way of choosing between your parents.” 



“The Next Life” features Lim, a Chinese-Ameri- 
can son coming to terms with both his father’s 
death and the art of mourning. “Even as a grown 
man, he found, he was afraid of his father ... 
Perhaps he had loved his father, he told himself. 
Next to respect and obedience, love had always 
been an extravagance in their relationship.” To 
offset this element of their lost bond, Lim pays 
for an extravagant funeral, replete with sacrifi- 
cial offerings and professional mourners, only to 
win back the cost of it in an all-night poker game 
with the mourners he has hired. The grace and 
good humor of the narration make this enjoyably 
convoluted plot function on another level entirely 
as it explores issues of pride and heritage. 

Throughout, the balance between loving your 
mate and loving your children is underscored 
with economy, precision, and intelligence. In 
“Small World,” a married woman asks her old 
boyfriend (who himself is an expectant husband), 
“If you don’t want to turn into your parents, 
don’t have kids, right?” And later, after they’ve 
both betrayed their respective spouses by hav- 
ing sex with each other, she tells him, “You know, 
you don’t have to compare everything. Your wife, 
me, our parents. Not everything’s comparable.” 
The mother of three children, she brings the full 
weight to bear on their too brief encounter, 
“Some people fight more when they have kids. 
You know why? Because they can.” 

On a different tonal note, the breathless “How 
to Be an Expatriate” hilariously and swiftly cap- 
tures what it is like to be caught between the 
rock of your old culture and the hard place of 
your new culture, while struggling to make ends 
meet in the arenas of work, love, and familial 
duty. “Cheat on your wife,” the second-person 
voice both advises and recounts. “She tells you 
one night you are losing your accent and it makes 
you feel like you’re losing your hair.” 

Throughout this dazzling collection, Davies’ 
characters are not necessarily looking for equal love 
so much as they are looking for balance. Take, for 
instance, the bittersweet ending of “Cakes of 
Baby,” about a young interracial couple’s barely 
endurable Thanksgiving with part of their 
extended family: “At home, in bed, they read 
silently before sleep. It has rained on the way 
back, pattering through the leaves, and now water 
drips off the gutters above them, the windowsill, 
the tree outside, the drips coming in odd, uneven 
rhythms like a host of slightly unsynchronized 
clocks.” Later, “outside, the dripping has slowed 
to a single, slow beat.” Most of Davies’ characters 
find this single beat, this moment of balance, 
eventually, in one form or another, but not before 
they — and the reader — have been through 
something unsettling and extraordinary. 

—Fred G. Leebron 

Fred G. Leebroit's novels are Six Figures (reviewed 
elsewhere in this issue) and Out West. He has new 
fiction ill DoubleTake and TriQuarterly. He is an 
associate grofessor of English at Gettysburg Gollege. 







HILDA NEILY GALLERY 






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PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 I PAGE 159 





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Provincetown Dogs 

by Susan Baker 

University Press of New Englaiui 



Provincetown Dogs reminds us that Provincetown 
is very much a dog town. Baker's The History of 
Provincetown, published last year by Verve, 
chronicled notable moments in human history. 
This book takes up where that left off, with a 
nostalgic look at famous dogs who roamed 
Provincetown’s streets, outwitting dog catchers 
and townspeople alike, before the days of man- 
datory spaying, leash laws, and pooper scooper 
etiquette. Town drunks, fishing vessels, empty 
beaches, and puddled streets provide colorful 
company, locales, and landscapes. In fourteen 
beautifully painted dog portraits, Baker captures a 
Provincetown that now exists only in memory, 
though it is hinted at on rainy gray winter days. 

Baker is well-known for her dog paintings and 
dog sculptures. She published a shorter, black- 
and-white version oi Provincetown Dogs fifteen years 
ago. An unabashed dog lover. Baker wrote that 
book while pregnant with her son, Ellery, so he 
would get to know and love her favorite dogs. 

Baker's long association with dogs rivals that 
of James Thurber, and she is among the only 
humorists in decades to successfully portray the 
dog as a species equal to the human in every 
respect. Baker uses her sharp understanding of 
psychology to show that sometimes the line 
between dog ego and human ego is fuzzy (or 
should 1 say hairy?). Baker’s dogs have recognizable 
human frailties — the accommodating Doggette 
“always tried to do what people wanted her to do 
without being asked,” and Zoomer “had many 
friends despite herself.” 

Many of the dogs Baker writes about have 
taken on mythic status in town. Johnny Lo-down 
was “built so low to the ground he could hide 
under cars when the dogcatcher chased him.” 
This ingenuity is remembered so fondly and well 
that at a Town Meeting nearly fifteen years after 
Johnny Low-down’s death, a candidate for select- 
man took the floor and spoke passionately about 
the dog in an effort to gamer votes. 

In both Provincetown Dogs and The History of 
Provincetown, Baker lovingly collects oddball char- 
acters — many of them long-gone — the way others 
collect rare antiques. But Baker skips the refinish- 
ing, preferring instead to keep the patina of age, 
imperfection, and authenticity intact. In other 
words. Baker, with disarming wit, stakes her claim 
to the real Provincetown, the old Provincetown, and 
helps us remember it was the spectacular nobodies 
who gave the town its soul. 

— Margaret Carroll-Bergman 

Margaret Carroll-Bergman wrote about the artist 
Cynthia Packard in last year's Provincetown Arts. 



As Nature Made Him: 

The Boy Who Was 
Raised as a Girl 

by John Colapinto 
HarperCollitts 

Chick for a Day: 

What Would You 
Do If You Were One? 

Edited by Fiona Giles 
Simon d! Schnster 

Along with deatli and taxes, we can count on the 
fact that every year more ink will be spilled trying 
to answer that eternal riddle: what makes men and 
women different? Two books published this year 
suggest, in very different ways, the dangers of as- 
suming tliat gender resides in the genitalia. John 
Colapinto ’s As Nature Made Him presents a moving 
account of the ill-fated effort to raise Bmce Reimer 
as a girl after a botched circumcision destroyed his 
penis. The anthology Chick for a Day besets upon 
us several dozen male writers’ fantasies about hav- 
ing a vagina for twenty-four hours. 

As Nature Made Him is the most detailed and 
intimate analysis to date of the celebrated “twins 
case,” as Reimer’s gender reassignment has been 
known in the scientific literature; die Reimer family 
had remained anonymous until now. In 1966, Janet 
and Ron Reimer of Winnipeg scheduled 
circumcisions for their eight-month-old twins, Bruce 
and Brian, in an attempt to alleviate pain they were 
experiencing in urination. During the course of the 
procedure, the doctor essentially burned off Bruce’s 
penis. Phallic reconstruction was not an option at 
that time, and specialists made dire predictions 
about Bruce’s future. Wrote one, “He will be unable 
to consummate marriage or have normal 
heterosexual relations, in that he will have to 
recognize that he is incomplete, physically 
defective, and that he must live apart.” 

This ominous prognosis led the Reimers to seek 
the counsel of Dr. John Money, a renowned psy- 
chologist who was then pioneering gender reassign- 
ment at Baltimore’s John Hopkins Hospital. In 
what’s come to be known as the nature vs. nurture 
debate. Money falls squarely and ardently in 
nurture’s camp: his work with hermaphrodites, in- 
tersexes, and transvestites convinced him that new- 
borns were “total psychosexual blank slates.” The 
charismatic and reassuring doctor convinced the 
Reimers that the solution lay in surgically castrat- 
ing their baby and raising him as a girl. In Bruce, a 
male bom with nomral genitals who, as a bonus, 
had an identical twin brother, the doctor found a 
perfeedy controlled experiment. 

For years — due in no small part to Money’s knack 
for self-promotion — the experiment was hailed as 
a success. Both social scientists and feminists 
celebrated the twins case for its “proving” that 
gender differences are cultural and environmental, 
not biological. According to Colapinto, however, 
while Money traveled from seminar to seminar 
describing the happy and well-adjusted twins, 
“Brenda” Reimer, indeed the entire Reimer family, 




PAGE 160 I PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 



lived in misery. Brenda, extremely “tomboyish,” was 
uncomfortable in her own skin, aggressive and 
anxious, a pariah at school. Although she was 
unaware of the circumstances of her birth, traumatic 
annual visits to Money’s clinic and, later, estrogen 
therapy, signaled to her that something was not 
quite right. As a preteen, she flady refused to submit 
to surgery to “fix” her genitals — the construction of 
her vagina — despite intense pressure from Dr. 
Money, the team of local doctors who treated her, 
and her conflicted and guilt-ridden parents. A couple 
of years later, with the encouragement of a kindly 
psychiatrist who had taken on Brenda’s case, the 
Reimers concluded that the experiment had failed. 
They revealed to their daughter that she had been 
born male, and, tellingly, Brenda immediately 
decided to live as a boy, naming herself David. For 
I the next several years, David underwent a host of 
j procedures, including a painful double mastectomy, 

' testosterone therapy, and phalloplastic surgery. He 
I survived a couple of suicide attempts and now 
; works in a Winnipeg slaughterhouse. He lives with 
his wife and is a father to her three children from 
previous relationships. 

; Colapinto shapes the events of David’s life into 
I a riveting and affecting narrative. He seems to have 
1 won the Reimers’ trust; formerly reserved family 
I members speak frankly about the most painful epi- 
I sodes from the past. His well-researched account 
I also includes interviews with former teachers and 
doctors and with two fellow outcasts who be- 
friended Brenda during her school years. All of 
j Colapinto 's material convincingly demonstrates that 
the attempt to turn Bruce into a girl was disastrous, 

■ and he lays the blame largely on Dr. Money, who is 
presented here as a hubristic monster. Money, for 
I his part, stopped speaking publicly about the case 
upon hearing of Brenda’s decision to live as a boy. 
When asked about it, he’d claim to have lost track 
I of the family. Others in the nurture camp also made 
inconspicuous retreats. Colapinto reports that ref- 
erences to the case were quiedy removed from new 
I editions of women’s studies textbooks. Brenda’s 
decision seemed to strike a damaging blow. 

Yet Brenda’s misery as a girl shouldn’t be 
interpreted as de facto evidence that nature trumps 
nurture. While Colapinto doesn’t make this point 
specifically, nurture (or, more precisely, cultural 
meanings associated with gender) seems to have 
significantly affected the reactions of those who 
encountered Brenda. For instance, a guidance 
counselor who treated Brenda during first grade 
recalled — before Colapinto revealed to her that 
Brenda was bom a male — that the child was pretty 
and well-dressed, but that “it was her manner more 
than anything else that got in the way. She was 
always grubby. She’d always just been fighting with 
the kids and playing in the dirt. Brenda was reaOy a 
' rough little kid. She didn’t want to sit down with a 
book. She’d rather play knock-’em-down-shoot- 
’em-up cop games.” When Brenda played with girls, 
the counselor recalls disapprovingly, she always tried 
“to be the boss.” Colapinto uses tales like this to 
create a portrait of Brenda as a girl unable to suppress 
her essential boyness. But the counselor’s 
impressions arguably have as much to do with social 
mores as with biological sex. It’s one thing to look 
back on Brenda’s behavior and to read into it, 



knowing that she was born male. In this case, 
however, the counselor was as troubled by Brenda 
as she’d presumably be by any girl who did not 
confomi to cultural norms of girlliood: keeping clean, 
avoiding conflict, sitting quiedy. And surely there are 
“normal” girls who reject these standards of behavior. 
Case in point: by sixth grade, Brenda began hanging 
out with a group of misfit tomboys. One of them. 
Heather, recalled to Colapinto that she “valued 
Brenda as a girl devoid of the duplicity and 
backstabbing that had poisoned so many of her 
relations with girls in the past.” Again, if duplicity and 
backstabbing are considered “ferniriine’’ characteristics, 
it is for cultural and not biological reasons. 

Unfortunately, Colapinto doesn’t explicitly 
evaluate the nature vs. nurture debate, but his book, 
unsurprisingly, has been commended and criticized, 
respectively, by members of the two camps. Above 
all, the story of David Reimer warns against 
wholeheartedly embracing biology or environment 
without allowing for the complex ways that 
combinations of the two affect gender identity. It 
seems obviously wrong-headed to assume that a 
normal infant boy who has lost his penis is not still 
a boy; maleness should not be fadlely equated with 
the presence of a penis. At the same time, the vast 
range of characteristics and behaviors that are coded 
male should not be seen as the simple products of 
biology (especially given that women often exhibit 
“male” traits, and that considerations of masculine 
or feminine traits vary across cultures). David Reimer 
makes this point himself with his own explanation 
of manhood: “What makes you a man is you treat 
your wife well, you put a roof over your family’s 
head, you’re a good father. ... 1 guess John Money 
would consider my children’s biological fathers to 
be real men. But they didn’t stick around to take 
care of the children. 1 did. That, to me, is a man.” 
Evolutionary psychologists might suggest that real 
men, in fact, do not remain with their families, that 
their biological makeup compels them to spread 
their seed far and wide. Reimer’s definition attests 
to the power of cultural interpretations of gender. 

Like As Nature Made Him, the anthology Cltick 
for a Day, in which male writers imagine a day as a 
woman, ought to inspire compelling questions 
about gender. Regrettably, Fiona Giles’ interesting 
idea (the book is a successor to an earlier volume by 
women writers, Dich fora Day) yields mosdy uninter- 
esting and uneven writing. Many of the contributors, 
like the misguided doctors who treated Bruce Reimer 
in the 1960s, conflate gender with genitalia: they seem 
more interested in trying out their new vaginas than 
in giving serious consideration to actual or perceived 
differences between men and women. The most re- 
volting example is Ronald Sukenick’s overlong and 
sordid tale of a young woman who has sex with ev- 
eryone from her husband to a stranger to her father- 
in-law to, no kidding, a dog. 

Some of the offerings are short and lazy, like 
nerve.com editor Rufus Griscom’s pronouncement 
that “any man who doesn’t fantasize about having 
a vagina is lacking ambition” and author Lawrence 
Ghua’s observation that “everybody’s got a pussy. 
We just don’t all know how to make it purr.” Several 
simplistically romanticize such “female” qualities as 
compassion, empathy, and cleanliness without 
examining why these traits are gendered to begin 



with. The best, and most original, entry comes from 
Sandip Roy. In his story, the gay narrator convinces 
his lover, Steve, to take a pill that temporarily 
transfomis him into a woman so that he can avoid 
coming out to his parents when they visit from India. 
By the end of the tale, the parents have canceled 
their visit, and Steve has decided to continue taking 
the pill and live as a lesbian. 

Giles concludes in her foreword that “becoming 
a woman brings out the best in a man.” That point 
is made more effectively by David Reimer, whose 
years as a girl sensitized him to cultural constraints 
imposed on females, than by any of the contribu- 
tors to Chid: for a Day. — Barbara Spindel 

Barbara Sinudel is a writer working on her Ph.D. 
dissertrJtion in American Studies. She lives in New York. 




KENNEDY 

GALLERY 

& STUDIOS 

353 COMMERCIAL STREET 
487.3896 



PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 I PAGE 161 








MARGARET CARROLL-BERGMAN 



Ryan Landry: 

A Thinking Drag Man for the 




RYAN LANDRY IS IN A PANIC 

His Provincetown landlady is auc- 
tioning off his summer rental to the 
highest telephone bidder. Landry is 
in Boston. When the price gets to 
$9,000, he hangs up, hops in his car 
and drives the two hours to Province- 
town to line up another apartment. It 
is February and the rentals are being 
grabbed faster than cigars in the Oval 
Office. One third-floor Commercial 
Street walk-up has a $25,000 seasonal 
price tag. It looks as if the drag artist 
is locked out of the market. But within 
hours of arriving on the Cape, he se- 
cures a rental ... in North Truro. “A 
quaint fishing village, no more. All the 
freaks and artists and fishermen are 
gone ... ITl come back to Provincetown when the 
dry wall crumbles,” he says, speaking of course of 
the pricey condo market that is gobbling up lower- 
priced apartment units. Landry is a sharp business 
man who knows that if anything is ever going to 
happen, you have to get off your arse. 

Landry’s Dollhouse Theater — a circus minus 
live animal acts — runs on sheer human energy. A 
gifted entertainer, Landry started the Dollhouse 
six years ago with his savings of $20,000. Come 
summertime, Landry and his band of merry trans- 
vestites, the Gold Dust Orphans, take the 
Dollhouse to Provincetown and treat audiences 
to his original and literate productions: Dragiila, 
Botwie ami Clyuie, Rosemary's Baby: the Musical, 
Charlie's Angels ami the Flaming Cave of the Tobacco 
Heiress, Johnny Guitar, Dynasty, and How Mrs. 
Grinchley Swijml Christmas. Landry writes, acts in. 



Thinking Drag Fan 



"We put on shows and 
entertain, and hopefully, 
we make people think." 




and produces his own plays and borrows from 
popular culture to sell seats. His comical titles, 
however, betray little of the social commentary 
that is the hallmark of a Dollhouse Production. 
“We are show people,” says Landry. “We put on 
shows and entertain, and hopefully, we make 
people think.” 

Landry’s show biz camp begs to prove that 
vaudeville is not dead; it’s wearing a wig of a 
different color. Last fall, the Washington-based 
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force gave Landry 
its community service award for being a “vital 
force in American Gay Theater.” Landry also 
appeared on a panel discussion for gay play- 
wrights with Terrance McNally and Tony 
Kushner. While Landry’s theater is undeniably 
queer and he jokes about having a “feminine” 
writer’s voice, he steadfastly rejects the homog- 
enization of gay culture, and rails especially 
against gays who live a suburban white-bread 
existence. 

“Gay men are sheep,” Landry pronounces, 
launching into a signature diatribe. “They would 
dance in a gas chamber if it had a good D]. They 
could be led to slaughter and they wouldn’t even 
know it. They are so saturated with their need 
for the rejection/acceptance game that gay life 
is about. They want to be accepted and they 
want to be rejected, and it will continue for- 
ever. Gay men have always wanted to emulate 
straight people. They just never knew they could 
and all of a sudden they think they can and all 
of a sudden they are the most boring people on 
earth. The gay people that I hang around with 
have to be super gay. I love them. The real Nellie 
freaks. There is a new kind of gay, the muscular, 
do-nothing gays. The untalented bourgeois crappy 
ass gays. I have no interest in them.” 

Landry’s success, like his view on boring gay 
men, is not without controversy. Last summer 
during a panel discussion on theater, sponsored 
by the Provincetown Art Association and Mu- 
seum as part of its “Forum 99” series, members 
of Provincetown’s “legitimate” theater commu- 
nity complained that they were losing audiences 
to drag shows, which some seemed to see as a 
bastardization of the “real” American theater that 
began in Provincetown. “The more people who 
attend our shows, the more they [the ‘legitimate’ 
theater people] hate us,” says Landry. “We are 
completely written off as a joke and yet we are 
no joke. When people think about theater in 
Provincetown they think of drag shows. Serious 



theater is dying. There are theater companies in 
Boston who view themselves as legitimate and 
they don’t get nearly as much press as the 
Dollhouse does. There is more to floating a the- 
ater than holding a martini glass and raising 
funds.” Landry is doing something right, and he 
is doing it on a shoestring. There are no fancy 
fundraisers or gala balls with big name support- 
ers, yet Landry pays his actors $500 a run, a 
queen’s ransom compared to what other 
nonequity companies pay their actors, and so 
far has broken even with the house filled to an 
average of ninety percent at $15 a head. Without 
raising a glass, the Dollhouse is self-sustaining. 

The 100-seat Dollhouse Theater has a perma- 
nent home in the basement of the Boston Arts 
Resource Center. Its brick walls and low-hang- 
ing heating pipes peel with lead paint chips and 
give off a low whistle during rehearsals for 
Landry’s latest project, The Bimiiy Trail. The space 
also serves as a temporary prop room — upturned 
plastic cows, lions, and a headless deer look like 
a collection of lawn ornaments stolen from res- 
taurants on Route 1 in Peabody. Everything is larger 
than life, from the giant brown bear propped up 
in the comer, to the stuffed red fox mounted on a 
birch branch atop several yards of “fun fur.” As 
crappy as it looks, there are thousands and thou- 
sands of dollars worth of props in this room. 
“Granted, some of it is junk that 1 bought at joke 
shops,” explains Landry, a large white rabbit head 
in his arms. The Dollhouse set designs are far from 
minimalist and highly stylized. Landry’s set de- 
signer for The Biiimy Trail, $cott Martino, has cre- 
ated a netherland between reality and fantasy with 
his painted cardboard sets where doors, windows, 
and bookcases open and shut to expose and hide 
an interior world. “I’ve seen sets in town that are 
made up of a ladder and a haystack. Where’s the 
art in that?” asks Landry. 

Landry does not appear in drag in The Bunny 
Trail, which depicts childhood as a mix between 
Alice in Woiulerlaihl and Psycho. “I guess I’m a bit- 
ter old queen,” he laments when asked about 
the autobiographical underpinnings of the play. 
Abandoned at birth by his mother and alcoholic 
father, Landry and his siblings were farmed out 
to foster homes. “My mother said she was going 
to California to make this movie called Bnllwhii’,” 
he says, referring to the 1958 classic B Western, 
“and, she never returned. She wasn’t in the movie 
either.” The cheesy Bnllwhijr inspired Landry to 
make Johnny Guitar. Eventually he and his brother 
were adopted by their paternal aunt and uncle, 
who Landry calls Mother and Father. Landry’s 
parents have never seen him on stage, but his 
mother once saw a tape of him in the title role 
of Camille in the Charles Ludlum play. “1 was 
proud,” he laughs, “I don’t know if she was 
proud.” About twenty years ago, Landry had a 
chance meeting with the biological mother who 
left him on a doorstep. “God, I thought, 1 hope I 
don’t look like her. She was homely.” 

Landry grew up in a trailer park in rural Con- 
necticut. His adoptive family was Mormon and 
the trailer park provided a surreal setting for the 
gay youth. His father was a lumberjack. “1 remem- 
ber looking at the shotgun held across his legs 



when I told him I was gay,” says Landry. At seven- 
teen, he left home, lived out of his car, and worked 
at the local plastics factory. His work in theater is 
an extension of not wanting to work in a factory 
or wait tables. Landry escaped to New York City a 
year later and became a prostitute by accident. “1 
went to this club called Cowboys and Cowgirls, 
half expecting to see Paul Lynde,” he explains. Not 
only did he run into the famous comedian, but 
also Truman Capote and Tennesee Williams. Jim 
Byrnes, Landry’s business partner and director for 
the Dollhouse, inteqects and challenges Landry on 
not knowing what kind of bar he stumbled into. 
“I honestly did not know. Yes, I became a hustler, 
but mostly what these booze-soaked celebrities 
wanted was conversation. They were lonely and 
looking for companionship.” Landry drops his 
voice to a conspiratorial whisper, “If they wanted 
sex, they could get it for free at the Y.” (It occurs to 
me at this point that Landry, who is famous for his 
use of low humor and blue language, has not ut- 
tered one vulgarity.) Landry soon became addicted 
to heroin and the high life. However, over a five- 
year period, he supplanted heroin and alcohol with 
a degree in fine arts. “I wasn’t lying in a bumt-out 
basement,” sings Landry operatically. “There are 
harder addictions to break than heroin.” 

By all accounts, Landry’s number one addiction 
is hard work. He started out in show business at 
the seedy east side dive, the Pyramid Club. Paid 
$20 a night to jump through flaming hoops of fire, 
he wore a wig, then a tiara, and finally settled on a 
nun’s habit. Soon he was discovered by Everett 
Quinton, the new artistic director of the Ridiculous 
Theater. Years earlier, Landry had known 
Ridiculous Theater founder Charles Ludlum, but 
he never traded in on that friendship for a job. Just 
as he was starting to make a name for himself in 
one of New York’s most prestigious off-Broadway 
theaters, Landry quit the Ridiculous and followed 
his boyfriend (Brian Carmmody, a writer tor People 
magazine) to Provincetown. It was 1989. Within 
one month, Landry’s boyfriend left him, his dog 
died, and he found out he was HIV positive. “I 
knew 1 would die if I didn’t throw myself into 
theater,” says Landry. By the early ’90s Landry was 
becoming a drag icon in Provincetown. He was 
the creator and organizer of “$uper Stars,” a talent 
show for drag performers held at the Crown and 
Anchor. Locals still remember Landry’s routine of 
a stoned Marcia Brady singing Jefferson Airplane’s 
“White Rabbit.” It was around this time that 
Landry formed an all-drag softball league. One 
friend of Landry’s recalls the nontraditional 
scoring: “If you got to second base with your wig 
still on, you scored a point, if you ran all the bases 
in high heels, there was another point.” In 1990 
Landry started the Mandalay Opera House and 
traveled to 5eattle, Miami Beach, and 
Provincetown staging plays by Charles Ludlum 
and Charles Bush. Every year, the company would 
go to the Barnstable County Fair in full drag, only 
to be escorted out by police because they made 
some of the fairgoers nervous. Drug abuse and 
infighting among cast members broke up the 
Mandalay, which was gaining recognition as a 
premier cross-dressing cabaret. 



In 1994, Landry started the glam-punk band 
$pace Pussy, named after a character in a Ludlum 
play. Landry was the lead vocalist, but there were 
guest vocalists like Broadway star Lea Delaria.The 
band played before a crowd of 50,000 at 
Wigstock in New York City. Celebrities like 
Aerosmith’s 5teven Tyler courted Space Pussy. 
Landry entered into a management deal with Bob 
Rook (former manager of the band Boston and 
owner of the Emack and Bolio’s ice cream chain) 
who suggested the frontman take a seventy per- 
cent cut of the band’s earnings. “I wrote the lyrics 
and the music and the rest of the band did the 
arrangements. I told the band I wanted forty per- 
cent.” A recurring pattern of jealousy and infight- 
ing emerged just as Space Pussy was getting ready 
to make a record deal. “Now Space Pussy plays at 
dump dances and occasionally at the Cape Cod 
Melody Tent,” Landry says sadly. Landry says the 
Dollhouse “is doing well because we’ve grown up. 
I’m not as hard to work with as people may think, 
but it has to be done my way. Jim keeps the com- 
pany together ... Scott is in charge of set design. 
More and more people are getting involved in the 
day to day operation. It’s no longer the Ryan 
Landry machine.” 

Landry sits on a stage cluttered with scripts, 
eating yogurt with a plastic fork. He is dressed 
in a threadbare, black and red checked flannel 
shirt and worn-out jeans. He is a handsome man. 
His lankiness, thick head of unruly black hair, 
masculine intensity, and comical stubble make 
him look more like a graduate student in math- 
ematics than a drag queen. It’s hard to believe 
that he can transform himself into a woman, 
much less a beautiful woman. But Landry is a 
master of illusion. Framed posters of each of his 
shows attest to his abilities at skirting the line 
between beautiful and bumbling. Landry as 
Sabrina, the smartest of Charlie’s angels, the only 
non-pin-up girl. Landry looking something like 
Claudette Colbert in Johnny Guitar, and Landry 
as Mrs. Grinchley, wearing a phallus for a nose. 
Landry sees drag as a clown mask. “I’m not say- 
ing that a woman’s face is a clown mask. I’m 
saying that drag is a clown mask. There’s a dif- 
ference.” He makes it clear that he is not trying to 
emulate women. “I’m just trying to say the gender 
thing is a ridiculous concept ... besides of course 
genitalia.” 

Yes, there is always some physical sign of who 
a person really is. With Landry, for whom the 
aphorism “things are not what they seem” seems 
fitting, it may be the tattoo on his right forearm — a 
Tasmanian devil captioned “legna” (angel spelled 
backward), with all its mischieveous incongmity, 
tells it like it might or might not be. 

Margaret Carroll-Berginan's scholarly writings on 
aiwrtion ami jn-ohihition were inihlishal in the 
anthology History in Dispute (St. James Press, 2000). 



PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 I PAGE 163 



DAVID KOPP 



The Aural Edges of 

John Thomas 

f not for him, says John Thomas, some other 
person would be accomplishing the same 
things in and for Provincetown. But it’s hard 
to imagine anyone else hlling his shoes as com- 
poser, pianist, writer, director, actor, lawyer, 
community activist, local historian, and impresa- 
rio. Although Thomas' deep involvement in die 
cultural and political life of Provincetown would 
appear to come from long familiarity with the 
place and its people, he moved to the Outer Cape 
only eight years ago, having worked as an artist 
in Provincetown during the previous two years. 
All the more notable, then, how he communi- 
cates and facilitates the spirit, aspirations, and 
concerns of the entire Provincetown community. 
As composer and perfomier, Thomas organizes or 
participates in perhaps the majority of musical con- 
cert events in town. He also composes for musical 
theater and often handles stoiy and words as well. 
As lawyer and historian, Thomas has researched 
and disseminated the history of the relationship 
between local culture, state 
and federal government, and 
the prized environment of the 
Outer Cape, and has worked 
to further communication and 
understanding between par- 
ties whose perceived interests 
may appear to differ. With a 
lawyer's diligence and an 
artist's vision, he strives to 
communicate human experi- 
ence both local and global, and 
to bring people together. 

,As a teenager Thomas 
studied piano and drama. 

Later, he pursued other interests, 
graduating from Northeastern Univer- 
sitv School of Law in 1984. He prac- 
ticed law, but within a few years felt 
the need to devote himself more to 
creative pursuits, and began to com- 
pose and perform in musical revues 
in the Boston area. In 1990, he ap- 
peared as actor and pianist in ( )///• Time, 
a critically praised take on gay life in 
America. In 1991 he collaborated with 
Abe Rybeck on a musical. Pure 
PolvESTUER: a hibliail burlesque. 

Staged at Boston's BCA Tlieatre by the 
Theater Offensive with Thomas 
among the cast, the show ran for two 
years, followed by regular revivals. 

Like all of Thomas' theatrical projects 
since. Pure PolyESTElER reaches into 
history for its subject. The Boston Clobe 
described a 1999 revival, which it 



named one of the year’s ten best small theater 
events, as “a lewd and lively drag revamp of the 
biblical story of Esther ... a ribald homage to gay 
liberation.” In the play, Esther’s ancient act of com- 
ing out as a Jew in order to save her people serves 
as a metaphor for contemporary coming-out is- 
sues. A gay romance is grafted onto the biblical 
narrative, and a healthy dose of cross-dressing and 
hearty sexuality is added. Thomas holds tlrat when 
his theater works contain gay themes, he and his 
collaborators always intend them for a wider au- 
dience, for most of the ostensibly gay concerns 
are ultimately manifestations of universal ones, 
while the shows contain music and humor with 
broad appeal. 

Thomas moved to Provincetown in 1992 with 
the intent of concentrating full-time on composi- 
tion and writing. His creative output surged. In 
1993, he issued Remembruuee, a recording of new 
piano, choral, and instrumental compositions. 
Drawing on his training as a classical pianist, Tho- 
mas' piano music melds considerable technique 
with a romantic sensibility, impressionistic tex- 
tures, and elements of contemporary popular style. 
Flow, chord, and pattern predominate; no edges 
here. Most of the recording’s choral music has a 
religious association, from the story of his 
grandmother’s conversion (her voice is heard be- 
hind the music), to works written for liturgical per- 
fomiance. Thomas also presents other composers’ 
music, arranging a 1770s Shaker 
melody for chorus and giving a 
heartfelt solo perfomrance of a well- 
known Brahms intemrezzo from the 
1890s. 

Also in 1 993, Tlromas premiered 
a new play in collaboration with Joe 
Byers. TightAss .Amlrogyuous, as the 
none-too-subtle title suggests, took 
Shakespeare’s “bloodiest and least 
literary pla/' and transfomied it into 
what Thomas terms a “splatter 




musical, Sweeney Todd-style,” with appropriate 
music — dissonant, edgy, rhythmic — hardly the 
style oiRemembraiiee. While Thomas’ instmmental 
music is usually calm, centered, expansive, 
evocative, his theatrical and event-centered music 
is highly varied. Musical theater numbers evoke 
Broadway sophistication, operatic expression, and 
ethnic or national styles where appropriate. Choral 
pieces convey the emotions and messages of their 
texts. No matter what the medium, though, 
Thomas intends that his music tell stories, and 
that his listeners accompany him on a journey. 
Journeys, he states, are not always predictable nor 
completely palatable; part of their impact is to take 
you outside of your comfort zone and leave you 
changed upon return. 

One of Thomas’ first projects in Provincetown 
was the ongoing composition of a large work for 
chorus and orchestra, the Vigil Cantata. Each year 
from 1994 to 1998, at the annual International 
AIDS Candlelight Memorial and Mobilization, 
held at the Unitarian Universalist Meeting House, 
he has premiered a new movement of the can- 
tata, to texts by Shakespeare, Homer, and 
Whimian, among others. Some of Thomas’ an- 
griest music is to be found in this work; you don't 
need to know the text to understand the mes- 
sage. In 1995, Tlromas premiered Sj’outaueous Me, 
based on writings of Walt Whitman and others’ 
writings about him. This was a rare solo effort; 
out of a deeply felt connection with the poet and 
his message, Thomas selected and arranged the 
texts, composed a forty-minute cinema-style 
soundtrack, and acted the poet onstage. For these 
efforts, Provincetown Magazine’s reviewer wrote, 
“John Thomas gives eloquent and exuberant voice 
to Whitman’s vision ... 1 can’t recall being so 
moved by a perfomier and his material in quite a 
long time.” The following year Thomas began an- 
other annual Provincetown event, Trance/Forma- 
tion, which sprang from his interest in music and 
instruments of distant cultures. The forces behind 



PAGE 164 I PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 




this “mystical experience” include a grand piano, 
tribal drums, vocal chant, electric sitar, Tibetan 
bowls, flute, electric violin, ambient tones, lights, 

I and a theremin, an early electronic instrument with 
a spooky, wavelike sound familiar from mid-20th- 
century science-fiction film soundtracks: in all, 
nearly a hundred minutes of spiritual state evoked 
' by music. (Thomas always mentions the length of 
each of his works as an essential descriptive fact; 

I that’s the lawyer in him.) Local performers Jon 
Arterton, the late Laurel Brooke, Brianna Caton, 
Robin Hendrich, and Sylvie Richard, along with 
James Coleman on theremin, have continued to 
join Thomas in this yearly tradition. 

Thomas’ deep identification with Provincetown 
arose not only with his personal attraction to the 
area but also from his long-abiding interest in the 
concerns of indigenous cultural groups. In law 
school he focused on Native American rights. Once 
on the Outer Cape, he shifted his attention to the 
indigenous population of the region, the diverse 
successive wavelets of immigration, and 
inhabitants’ relationship with the Province Lands, 
protected by state, then federal law for over 300 
years. Starting in 1997 Thomas wrote several 
dozen articles for Provincetown Magazine, detailing 
the history of the legal relationship between the 
state and the town, and the lengthy process of 
establishing the National Seashore. According to 
Thomas, authorities always recognized that 
creating a national park on the Outer Cape would 
constitute a special case, since the area was fairly 
well-populated for generations. He discovered that 
the Seashore’s enabling legislation had three 
provisions rather than the usual two — not only to 
safeguard the environment and to provide 
reasonable access, but also to “further and maintain 
the local ways of life.” He feels strongly that the 
third provision has been ignored. As a member of 
the citizens group We the People of Provincetown 
he has worked with the town government to 
strengthen formal links to newly receptive 
( Seashore officials. Thomas' further concern is with 
I the newest group of newcomers to the region. His 
t worry: “Because of the mix of money that’s come 
in with the new immigrant group, we’re in a real 
; tender situation; we’re in a race against time. Can 
. we educate enough people about how wonderful 
it is so they like it and want to keep it that way? 
And that’s starting to happen — I’m feeling very 
good about that.” 

By 1999 Thomas was involved in a good dozen 
events as composer, performer, and/or impresario 
within a fourteen-week season. These included 
solo and group concerts, the annual events, and 
important concerts bringing together new works 
by local composers. Thomas is as much catalyst 
■ as musician; this is not a composer who writes by 
himself for himself. After this flurry of activity, 
Thomas made a millennial pilgrimage to Nepal and 
Tibet, a part of the world which had always 
fascinated him. Visiting Tibetan monasteries and 
trekking in Nepal, he encountered breathtaking 
aural stimuli: the prayer bells and chanting of the 
monasteries; the profound quiet, rustle of leaves, 
and jingle of horses’ bells of the mountains. While 
in Nepal he improvised music with some of the 
I country’s most prominent sitar and tabla players 
I 



on one of the “less than a dozen pianos which 
exist in the whole country — that’s not how they 
make music.” Some young friends there, rock 
musicians in the city of Bokhara, led him to an 
unexpectedly state-of-the-art digital recording 
studio, where in four and a half hours he had 
composed and mixed a twelve-minute piece, 
Annajnirna, which simultaneously reflected his 
impressions of the vast natural landscape he had 
witnessed, and the sadness he felt at the news 
that a dear friend was seriously ill with cancer. 
Annajnirna describes a state of being, combining a 
persistent low drone with other smoothly drawn- 
out instrumental sounds, whispers and sighs, and 
a slowly moving harmonic background. 

Back at home in his studio in the North Truro 
house of gallery owner Berta Walker, Thomas set 
to his latest project, another historically-inspired 
musical. Walt and Oscar's Wilde Weehend builds on 
Thomas’ fascination with Whitman, and his 
discovery that the poet met twice with Oscar 
Wilde during the latter’s lecture tour in the United 
States in 1882. The first meeting was formal and 
documented, but Thomas uncovered evidence of 
a second, undocumented meeting; thus the 
opportunity for the playwright to mix fact with 
fantasy, creating a “musical fantasia based on 
historical writings, rumour, and innuendo,” 
imagining the exchange of ideas the two might 
have had, and imagining an intimate relationship 
between them. Since Wilde’s tour was sponsored 
by Richard d’Oyly Carte, Thomas supplemented 
his sophisticated Sondheim-like score with a 
Gilbert-and-Sullivan-style patter song. Premiered 
in April as the inaugural event in the second annual 
Provincetown Poetry Festival, the cast included 
singers Mary Abt, Jon Arterton, and Mary Jo 
Paranzino (known as The Three Marys), Peter Bez, 
Richard Buckley, and Stanley Wilson; actress 
Beverly Bentley; and musicians Brianna Caton, 
Diane Fisher, Robin Hendrich, Peter Orgain, and 
Sandy Spencer. 

So, what now? Thomas’ plate would seem to 
be plenty full, as another season replete with 
performances and new compositions approaches. 
He plans to expand and polish Walt and Oscar's 
Wilde Weekend, and to rework the entire Vigil 
Cantata into a fully orchestrated and choral piece. 
Still, he finds himself in his own comfort zone 
and feels the itch to transcend it. While continuing 
his local activities, Thomas hopes to find 
opportunities to produce present and future work 
in New York or Los Angeles. Having given so 
much to Provincetown, and in his mind having 
gotten so much more in return, who could fault 
his desire to focus some of his energy outward? 
For most of us, artistic activity in Provincetown 
means visual arts and creative writing. Thanks in 
no small part to John Thomas, music and musical 
theater are now once again becoming a vital part 
of the landscape. 

David Kofifi, a jnanist and music theorist, teaches at 
the University of Washington. He wrote about the 
contfioser Arthur Berger in last year's issue of 
Provincetown Arts. 



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PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 I PAGE 165 



§ea Shanties and Squid: 



A Conversation with 



Zoe Lewis 





LOUISE RAFKIN 




PHOTO: DEB MARTIN 



Singer/songwriter Zoe Lewis is a stalwart Provincetown per- 
former, appearing solo as well as alongside her "Rubber 
Band," which features Kate Wolf on bass, Sylvie Richard on 
percussion, and Zoe on everything from piano to harmonica 
to ukulele. While other seasonal artists flit in and out of 
P'town, treating it like a summer fling, Zoe, who first arrived 
in 1992, has clearly fallen in love with the place and has 
made a commitment to a serious relationship. Her songs 
reflect the magic of a place which, in her words, "defies 
stereotypes," a place where all types of people live har- 
moniously and with respect for each others' differences. 
Lewis plays a number of venues — gay, straight, and 
mixed — and hangs out with people of all genders and 
persuasions. She counts among her favorite folk fishermen, 
ladies at the Cape End Manor, drag queens, and lesbian 
Buddhist monks, and her audiences reflect her association 
with a wide range of locals. 

Born and raised in a southern English fishing village, Zoe 
nows calls Provincetown "home," and can be found dash- 
ing up and down Commercial Street on her trusty blue 
bicycle, that is, when she's not touring the country with her 
band, playing on a lesbian cruise, or exploring an open mar- 
ket in some far-off country. Her recent CD releases. Sheep 
and Full of Faraway, include songs that reflect her love for 
our town, as well as her delight in traveling. 

Louise Rafkin: Let's start out with a word 
association. What comes to mind when I say 
Provincetown? 

Zoe Lewis: Clamming, squidding, the Mayflower 
restaurant, sitting on the street curb chatting with 
friends, the fabulous ladies in the post office, 
my bicycle, which got stolen and now is back 



again, tlianks to a lot of caring townie detectives, 
in general, the diversity of life in this little village. 
And the incredible creativity. Plus the stark con- 
trast between summer and winter, the shifting 
spring season when 3,000 people swell to upwards 
of 30,000. This year. I’ve been getting to know a 
bit about the civic aspect of the town. 1 went to 
Town Meeting — though as an alien I’m not aOowed 
to vote, I enjoyed it, especially the colorful charac- 
ters. Even P’town ’s selectmen are extravagant! This 
is not a nomial town. That’s why I love it. 

LR: Many perfomiers come through Provincetown 
and call it home for a summer, but few really make 
it home. How did you come to call this home? 

ZL: When I came to town I thought I was going 
to do one gig, with the Lesbian Lounge Lizards, 
but 1 hadn’t reckoned on falling for the place. 
This town is similar in some ways to my home 
village, Rottingdean, though in Rottingdean the 
old ladies have poodles and here the young men 
sport them. As I stuck around, I began to see all 
the different layers in the community. There's 
the obvious gay layer of life here, but then I got 
to know the local Portuguese scene, and then 
the local children and older folks, plus the art- 
ists and writers, of course. Every year I live here 
it seems I uncover more of what makes this town 
special. Because I travel in the winter, 1 find this 
is a really great place to stay still. P'town an- 
swers my need for home and I feel happy that I 
discovered it so early in my life. 

LR: Your song “Pies for the Public” tells the life 
story of Charlotte Matta, a woman who lives at 
the Cape End Manor. How did you come to get 
this story? 



ZL: I was playing a gig in the Manor and started 
talking about my love of tea. Charlotte came up to 
me and told me she could make a good cuppa and 
then she told me all about her pies and I loved 
hearing about P’town during the depression and 
how the fishermen came in and bought her lemon 
and clam pies. 1 mean, of course, lemon and clam 
being two different pies! 

LR: You 're in town half the year? 

ZL: I’m in and out like a yo-yo during the whole 
off-season, but more or less I’m here six to eight 
months in total. If I happen to fall in love with 
someone here, then I’m here even more. 

LR: And when you’re not here? 

ZL:I 'm in England to see my mum, who is eighty- 
seven, on tour being a troubadour, or heading 
somewhere far away that’s exotic and warm. 

LR: Your songs all tell tales, stories of your inter- 
ests and adventures. How do you go about your 
writing and storytelling? 

LR: I call my songs lounge/folk because they’re 
a bit of both really, and I write about what 1 
Icnow. When I’m traveling 1 pick up all sorts of 
different grooves and musical influences. It’s so 
inspiring to be in new places, but I find if I look 
around me at home there’s just so much to write 
about here. Right now I’m obsessed with fishing 
and have recently written about the joys of 
squidding. Lots of my songs are about seafaring. 
One of my latest is about wanting to be like Jacques 
Cousteau. 

LR: You give tourists an inside line on P’town life, 
the life of the locals, and it seems to me that the 



PAGE 166 I PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 



people who come to see you really understand that 
this is a gift. 

ZL: When 1 go traveling 1 try to find the places 
where the locals go, then 1 get to really feel the 
place I’m visiting. I hope my songs reflect some 
of this side of P’town, beyond all the money- 
making tourist stuff. I’m so proud of this town I 
want visitors to experience the other parts, too, 
not just Commercial Street. That’s why 1 play 
so many different venues — so I can play to all 
the different types of visitors. 

LR: You’ve been here almost a decade, how do 
you feel about the changes in the town? 

ZL: I think fewer performers are coming to town 
because they just can’t afford the high rents. Also, 
the pianos are disappearing! There are fewer pi- 
anos because they take up valuable table space 
in the restaurants and more people need to dine. 
Except for The Boatslip, the grands have disap- 
peared altogether. It’s tragic. 

LR: That is tragic. So, do you think priorities are 
changing? 

ZL: Money is definitely ruling things a bit more in 
this booming economy, but there is still enough of 
the old spirit around to keep things going. 

LR: What kind of adventures lie ahead? 

ZL: Lots of touring in the U.S., as well as Costa 
Rica, and some cruises. I dream of doing a round- 
the-world tour and playing in lots of little fish- 
ing villages. I feel like I do better in small fishing 
towns, because the people there understand 
songs about squid! But sometimes when I play 
big cities, the people will sing along with me even 
though there is no water nearby. I try to bring 
them a sense of the sea, the spirit of fishing, the 
joy I feel in my town. 



Louise Rafkiu is the author of Other People’s Dirt 
A former Truro vearroimdcr, she's now a summer friend. 

A few of Zoe’s lyrics: 

Hello, my name is Charlotte 
1 live by the sea 

in a little town where 1 know everybody 
and everybody seems to know me 
Now my hair's the color of a snowflake 
I've got a couple aching bones 
and there's just too many of us to a room 
in the old folks home 
— from “Pies for the Public” 

Let's go squidding 
with the grandpas and boys 
I'm really not kidding 
it’s full of summertime joys 
1 got ink on my hands 
and a jig on the line 

and enough in my bucket for dinnertime 
— from “Let’s Go Squidding” 

1 want to be like Jacques Cousteau 
a sort of aquamarine Clouseau 
a little bristle on my chin 
a salty sunkissed leather skin 
the world beneath the deep 
is where 1 want to go 
1 want to be like Jacques Cousteau 
— from “Jacques Cousteau” 



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PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 I PAGE 167 







PAULETTE BEETE 




PAULEHE SINGS PHOTO WALT GREELEY 



You Don't 
Have to Be 

Amazing 

W e haven’t known each other long. Rob 
Nadeau’s a painter from Rochester; 
Maurice Manning’s a poet from Ken- 
tucky; and I’m a poet, lately from Chicago. We 
all meet in October when we start our fellow- 
ships at the Fine Arts Work Center. I’m not quite 
sure how it happens. One night 1 hear Rob and 
Maurice playing together in the Center's com- 
mon room — Rob on piano, Maurice on guitar. 
Then the next night. I'm singing. 

I’m pretty intimidated — Maurice and Rob seem 
to have a fluency on their instruments that 1 don’t, 
and they've both been in bands before. They're 
barreling away on blues, bluegrass, and classic rock, 
while I’m used to squeaking out pretty pop jazz. I 
don't feel like a musician, just like someone who 
can carry a tune. That first night I drink die only 
song all three of us know is Patsy Cline's “Walking 
After Midnight.” After a couple of sessions, I sug- 
gest that we need to shape ‘'Summertime,” 
crescendoing from a reverie to a jam and back again, 
an idea they both like. Flush with that small suc- 
cess, 1 find enough courage to scat during the jam. 

We talk about braving the open mike at The 
Mews' Monday-night Coffeehouse. We've been 
there once or twice, and it feels like a good place 
to christen our act. Rob and 1 and some of the 
other fellows go the next Monday night and hear 
Peter Donnelly, the host, and Ron Robbins, the 
Mews' owner, talking about renting a piano for 
the week's feature act. Rob offers to let them 
use his own electric keyboard, for which we get a 
spot on die open mike roster, and Rob gets free 
drinks. 

The Mews Coffeehouse is finishing its ninth 
season. According to Peter, he pitched the idea 
of a "Coffeehouse" program to Ron shortly after 
moving to Provincetown, He was teaching him- 
self to play guitar and write music and was look- 
ing for a place to try things out. “1 think about 
the Coffeehouse as a tool, a workshop.” He says 
that the idea is to give people a chance. “You 
don't have to be amazing. It’s a place to figure 
out if you even want to be on stage.” 

The first night we play, Peter introduces us 
as "The Work Center Triplets.” Later, Dan Towler, 
the Buildings and Grounds guru at the Center, 
dubs us "Fellowship of Fools.” Though the audi- 
ence is composed mostly of friendly Work Cen- 
ter faces and the Mews has one of the kindest 
audiences I’ve ever seen at a Coffeehouse, I’m 
terrified. This isn’t me singing at a recital planned 
by my voice teacher — I’m fronting a band. I have 
to say stuff in between songs. Funny stuff, or at 



They tell me to sing it with 
a microphone and just 
make it dirty, though they 
have no specific ideas for 
how you "dirty" a song. 

least interesting. I try to think of a few stories but 
settle for what feels like a lot of smiling and thank 
yous. At the end of our set, Peter offers us a fea- 
ture spot, which we eagerly accept, though we’ll 
only have two weeks to learn enough songs to fill 
a half-hour set. 

The first year of the Coffeehouse, a lot of the 
performers were writers, many from the Work 
Center. The Coffeehouse eventually diversified, 
attracting musicians and other types of perform- 
ers, such as jugglers, videographers, performance 
artists. Peter says the idea of featured perform- 
ers was added to “raise the level.” 

Still, the Coffeehouse remains true to its mis- 
sion, being about the performers’ relation to the 
stage itself rather than about pleasing the audi- 
ence. Performers and readers have included 
Michael Klein, Marie Howe, Tim Seibles, Gary 
Arnold and Katie Curtis. This season I’ve seen 
everyone from Princess Leia, who reads pithy 
pseudo-proverbs she calls “Leia-isms” to Rob 
Scott, a jazz piano and guitar playing Bob Dylan- 
voiced sometimes rap artist, to Theresa Rogers, 
who moved to San Francisco just after her fea- 
ture night to build her music career. 

The first week is hard for me as we try to ex- 
pand our repertoire. I specialize in bluesy torch 
songs, and Maurice and Rob want me to do more 
wailing blues and bluegrass/folk songs. I try Su- 
san Tedeschi’s “Hurt So Bad” (my idea) and a 
prison song, “Mama Tried” (their idea). “Hurt So 
Bad” is bad, but not awful. “Mama Tried,” in 
which I screech out “I turned twenty-one in prison 



doing life without parole,” is worse than awful. 
I explain to Maurice and Rob that it’s not sitting in 
the right part of my throat, and they look at me 
blankly. They tell me to sing it with a microphone 
and just make it dirty, though they have no specific 
ideas for how you “dirty” a song. I leave each re- 
hearsal that week frustrated and with a sore throat. 

I think a lot about what I want out of the band. 
Rob and Maurice continually chide me to just have 
fun. But for me, it feels more serious than that; I 
have something to prove. I’m at war with myself — 
I’m not sure if I’m pushing my voice too hard or if 
I’m not pushing it hard enough. I decide that there 
are just certain songs I can’t do, and I feel like a 
failure. Rob and Maurice are supportive, though 
Rob still thinks my voice can do a lot more than 1 
think it can. It’s important that I sound good to 
others, and even more so, to my own hyper-criti- 
cal ears. It’s not that Rob and Maurice don’t sound 
good, or don’t want to sound good, it’s just that 
the rough edges seem to bother me more. I’m not 
sure what to make of this, since in poetry, it’s the 
rough edges I most enjoy. 

We decide that as part of our set we’ll break 
into duets so each of us can do “our" kind of 
music. Rob and I work up a version of the jazz 
standard “Gee Baby, Ain’t I Good To You” while 
Maurice and I choose “Poor Wayfaring Stranger,” 
a blues spiritual. 1 take a break, and the boys 
blister through a version of “Going Out on the 
Highway.” Maurice starts singing harmony, and 
I have fun playing off his voice. After each re- 
hearsal that second week, I’m full of energy and 
a great desire to play ping-pong — a definite sign 
things are going well. 

Even though I’ve sung before, singing with a 
band is different. I’m used to learning music with 
my voice teacher, then practicing once with the 
accompanist before 1 sing at a wedding or 
recital. Collaboration — actually sitting down and 



PAGE 168 I PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 



hammering out arrangements — is new to me. I’m 
so excited that I write everybody I know that I’m 
in a band and that we’re going to be on the radio. 
Every Wednesday, Provincetown’s local radio 
station, WOMR, broadcasts an hour’s worth of that 
week’s Coffeehouse. 

One night, while waiting for rehearsal to start, 
I ask Rob why he’s a painter and not a profes- 
sional piano player. He says he enjoys playing 
but he’d rather save his energy for his painting. I 
mention that it seems like people who are strong 
in one artistic medium are usually strong in an- 
other one as well. Woody Allen is primarily 
known as a filmmaker, though he’s also an ac- 
complished clarinetist with his own band. And 
both Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan straddle that 
songwriter/poet line, though they’re primarily 
known as singer-songwriters. We have to make 
a choice — either figure out how to incorporate 
both artistic strengths, like Dylan and Mitchell, 
or pursue one art full-blast, hoping there’s time 
left over for the other one, like Woody Allen. I tell 
Rob that I've directed my energies into poetry be- 
cause the high I get when a poem is working is 
like nothing else I ever feel. 

I start to wonder if I’ve been shortchanging 
myself by not working more on singing. I think 
I hold part of myself back when I sing, while in 
writing I consistently work at letting go. One of 
my voice teachers used to tell me I “dished it up 
on a plate, but didn’t quite serve it.” Music and 
poetry are inseparable to me, and my more re- 
cent poems have included blues verses meant to 
be sung. Still, I haven’t worked at singing as ag- 
gressively as my writing. Aside from the issue of 
time, I wonder if being successful at poetry isn’t 
as scary to me as being a successful singer. I also 
wonder what exactly it is I’m scared of. 

A few days before the gig, we find out Peter 
has mistakenly double-booked our night. We’re 
upset to see advertising all over town for the 
other feature, but are still glad just to have a place 
to play. When we arrive at the Mews, we find 
out that serendipitously, the other feature has 
canceled. No one signs up for open mike, so Pe- 
ter sings a few of his songs to warm up. The 
three of us sit at a back table. Rob sips a scotch 
while Maurice and I nervously watch people 
walk in. I’m drinking water, though I really want 
a whisky. I curse the rule I have about not drink- 
ing alcohol before I sing. I keep running down- 
stairs to the ladies room and panic about what 
I’ll do if nature calls during the set. 

Peter finally calls us to the stage. During the 
sound check I keep my head down and mumble 
into the microphone. I feel naked without the 
music behind me. Peter introduces each of us 
individually. I reply as if I’m a Miss America con- 
testant. Though people laugh, to my ears, I sound 
wooden and unfunny. 

We start off with “Call It Stormy Monday,” 
which Maurice and 1 have arranged, so we trade 
off verses. He gets to his verse and sings out of 
time, prompting him to stop and have us start 
again. This time I sing out of time, but when 
Maurice looks at me puzzled, I shrug my shoul- 
ders and slide into the right rhythm for the second 
verse. At the end of the song I quip to the crowd 



“Wow, are you guys glad we got through that one, 
because 1 am!” It feels like some other me has taken 
over. This other Paulette laughs and jokes and flirts 
in a way I usually can’t. And though 1 can let her 
lead when I’m talking to the audience, I still can’t 
wholly give over control when 1 sing. Though the 
audience can’t seem to tell, the sounds in my head 
don’t quite match what comes out of my mouth. I 
feel exposed and vulnerable if I’m not in control. 
It’s one thing to give up control to that artistic other 
self when I’m writing poetry, alone. I can take back 
control in the editing process, long before anyone 
else sees my work. But here onstage, 1 have to give 
over control publicly, in the moment. What if my 
technique falters or 1 forget the words? What if I 
expose too much? 

The rest of the set goes smoothly — the only 
interruption being when someone buys us a 
round of drinks. The other Paulette says, “Ex- 
cuse us, we’re getting beverage service. So is this 
to make us sound even better?” The crowd 
laughs, and 1 let go a little more, start to relax. 
By the time we get down to our last few songs, 
we’re all calm and happy. I don’t blink an eye 
when Rob cuts off “Summertime” earlier than 
we’ve rehearsed to launch into our encore. We 
play two more songs after that and only stop 
because we run out of songs that we all know. 
On “Walking After Midnight,” I can’t stop smil- 
ing; it sounds exactly the way I’ve imagined it. 

That Wednesday, I listen to us on WOMR, 
expecting to end up with a long list of “Next time 
I should sing it like this” and “Next time I have to 
make sure I don’t go flat on that.” Surprisingly, 
I’m quite pleased with the tape, especially the sexy- 
voiced singer who, like a pro, introduces herself 
and the rest of the band before launching into a 
throaty rendition of “What’d I Say.” 1 play it 
through a few times, lying on the floor, eyes closed, 
just enjoying the music. 

The holidays come and the band goes its sepa- 
rate ways for a few weeks. When we come back, 
I ask a couple of times if we can rehearse but 
Rob is busy working on an installation piece and 
Maurice is preparing for job interviews. And then 
I get busy writing poems for my reading. 

We’ve only two months left as fellows, and 
we still haven’t played together again, though 
we would like to do another gig before we all 
leave Provincetown. I’ve taken Peter’s advice and 
thought a lot about if the stage is really the place 
I want to be, not just as a poet who sings, but as 
a singer who also happens to be a poet. 1 plan to 
spend the summer learning enough about my- 
self, about my relationship to music, to know 
exacdy what to put in the ad for the band I might 
start when I get back to Chicago. I want to learn 
how to let all of that other me onto that stage, 
to finally figure out how to get the plate to the 
table, and leave them asking for seconds. 

Paulette Beete's yoetry af’f’ears in these pages. 




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PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 I PAGE 169 




HUNTER O'HANIAN 



the Sizzle in the 
Steak: A Conversation w ith 
Alix Ritchie about 

Campus ProvincetowTi 

For two years now, a consortium of community leaders has 
been developing a plan to bolster Provincetown's off-season 
economy. The idea is simple. In essence; take what you have 
(an array of educational resources), give it a catchy name 
("Campus Provincetown"), and they (hungry minds from 
far and wide) will come. Sounds like Marketing 101, but in 
an artists colony not exactly teeming with business school 
grads (yet), the enterprise has been a little bewildering. 

Not to Banner publisher Alix Ritchie, the visionary mind 
behind the Campus Provincetown concept. Flere, for those 
whose first word-associations upon thinking of Provincetown 
are "light," "art," "landscape," or any of many poetic 
musings, a primer on the benefits of "marketing platforms" 
and "product packaging"— terms we'll all get acquainted 
with as the economic realities of life in a beautiful boom- 
time town become ever more apparent. 

— Jennifer Liese 

Huntbr O’Hanian: 1 first remember seeing the 
name Campus Provincetown in an article you 
wrote in the Banner a few years ago. What made 
you write that story'? 

Alix Ritchie: We have a hidden industry in Pro- 
vincetovN'n — an education industry, both in-season 
and off-season. I thought we ought to take 
advantage of that, do a better job of identifying 
ourselves. 1 started to diink tliat witli die existing 
organizations and efforts. Provincetown itself was 
beginning to look like a campus. Campus 
Provincetown just rolled out from that. It's had a 
magnetic quality, drawing many individuals and 
organizations to the table. 

HOH: But why education? 

AR: It v\'as here already. There is some wonderful 
talent and resources here, but we have to face the 
reality that there isn't a ycarround economy in 
town. While there arc some indigenous small 
businesses, there really aren't many other options 
for industry'. 



HOH: Exactly. We can’t put manufacturing fa- 
cilities along Route 6. But we aren’t building a 
college are we? 

AR: No. We really aren’t creating anything new. 
It’s just taking what individual organizations are 
already doing and creating a new marketing plat- 
form that helps everyone market their educa- 
tional opportunities. We might be creating the 
sizzle by packaging the collective offerings, but 
the steak was there. We want to let those who 
come here for the fun and sun in the summer know 
they can come back in the off-season and partake 
in the town in a way that is more intimate and 
hopefully more enlightening. 

HOH: And the ‘‘campus,’’ what is that? There 
seems to be some confusion. 

AR: Provincetown has a special sense of inti- 
macy — a walking environment, with a unified 
campus feeling. The town itself is the “campus.” 

HOH So, in other words, the Work Center and 
the Art Association are the art department, the 
Center for Coastal Studies is the environmental 
sciences department, the theater companies will 
be the drama department, the guest houses are the 
dorms, the restaurants are the dining halls, the 
shops become the co-op. When you think of it, 
the residential and business portion of Province- 
town is probably close to the same size as a 
medium-sized college. 

AR: Exactly. 

HOH We use the temi “education industry,” but 
that also creates some confusion. 

AR: I think we have to think of education as a 
product that we’re selling. We are selling the 
knowledge, talent, experience, and opportuni- 
ties we have here and sharing tiiem with others. 
Campus Provincetown allows us to package and 
market it under one umbrella organization. That 
way, if someone from Iowa wants to take a course 
at the Fine Arts Work Center, the Provincetown 
International Art Institute, or the Center for 
Coastal Studies, they can access those opportu- 
nities through one package. We were fortunate 
that our timing was concurrent with the PIAI of- 
fering its first classes. 

HOH: But Campus Provincetown won’t be direct- 
ing the programming for those organizations, will it? 

AR: One of tiie wonderful things about die existing 
institutions in Provincetown is how closely they 
guard their independence. Of course Campus 
Provincetown won’t interfere with programming 



within any of the organizations. 1 doubt Campus 
Provincetown itself will ever offer a course. 

HOH: What support have you seen from the 
business community? 

AR: 1 don’t think there’s a business in this town 
that doesn’t need Campus Provincetown, even 
those that close in the winter. It’s in all of our 
interests to have a yearround economy. It’s im- 
portant to offer jobs to those who stay through 
the winter. I think its notable that the Chamber 
of Commerce, particularly Candy Collins-Boden, 
has been involved in this idea from the get-go. 
The Provincetown Business Guild also seems to 
be coming aboard. 

HOH: Do you see a role for the businesses in 
town? 

AR: That’s the point. The businesses participate 
by offering their services throughout the year to 
the students. Shops and restaurants may be able 
to hire more people later in the season, and guest 
houses hopefully will see more guests. 

HOH: What about courses? So far we have been 
talking about courses offered by the non-prof- 
its. Is it possible to offer hotel and motel man- 
agement courses at the Provincetown Inn, for 
instance, or a two-week seminar on how to run 
a guest house? I understand cooking courses are 
now available at Clem & Ursie’s. 

AR: Why not? It’s possible for these courses to 
be accredited through the Cape Cod Commu- 
nity College. It seems pretty evident that the pos- 
sibilities are endless, particularly through distance 
learning and tele-commuting. 

HOH: What about those who say, “I like Pro- 
vincetown the way it is in the off-season, nice and 
quiet. Why should we try to bring anyone else 
here?” 

AR: Well that’s fine as long as you have a place to 
live and some bucks in your pocket. But it’s not so 
nice if you can’t afford your rent or even an occa- 
sional movie. If people don’t want to participate, 
of course no one is going to make them, but there 
are plenty of people who would like to see it a 
little more active in the off-season. I remember a 
winter when everything in town was closed. It 
was terrible. The great fear in my mind is that Prov- 
incetown is going to become a summer-only com- 
munity. If everything is closed in the winter, there 
will be no community. Plus, if we strengthen the 
off-season educational offering, imagine the im- 
pact it will have on our public schools. That’s why 




PAGE 170 I PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 



Susan Fleming, the superintendant of the Provinc- 
etown Schools, has been so involved, 

HOH: But what about you? You obviously love 
the town, but do you need Campus Provincetown? 
Does the Banner need Campus Provincetown? 

AR: I love this place too much to see it become a 
summer play pen. It’s a much bigger place than 
that. I don’t want to build more buildings or 
put stress on our limited resources, but if every- 
one can make a living in the winter, we are all 
better off. Yes, indeed the Banner needs Campus 
Provincetown, and so do 1. 

HOH: So lets talk more specifically about how 
it will work. 

AR: We’ve done our homework. We took the 
first step, which was to identify the products 
the organizations were offering. The next step, 
which will begin this summer, is to let the world 
know what we’re doing. We’ve put up a sophis- 
ticated website and will be distributing 100,000 
brochures and printing our first comprehensive 
course catalog. We hired Mike Fiattersley as di- 
rector. He has a great background in higher edu- 
cation and marketing. 1 think we are moving 
fairly aggressively. 

HOH: In a little more than a year, we have gone 
from an idea to having a catalog printed. It’s 
remarkable. 

AR: Even if we say so ourselves! 

HOH: How will we know when Campus Pro- 
vincetown is a success? 

AR: 1 think we’ll know when each member orga- 
nization is doing as much as each can in terms of 
educational offerings. Beyond that, success will be 
seen when the town doesn’t close up in the win- 
ter. We aren’t looking for it to be like August 
yearround. But if each month could be like Octo- 
ber, it would be great. Don’t you agree? 

HOH: Well, the Work Center has two very suc- 
cessful programs — the Winter Fellowship and 
Summer Workshop programs. But we’re active 
in Campus Provincetown because it’s part of our 
mission to help stimulate the economy in the 
winter. It was the vision of Hudson Walker, one 
of the Work Center's founders, to put $500 a 
month in twenty fellows’ pockets to be spent 
locally in the winter. Now, the Work Center’s 
winter fellowship program spends more than 
$300,000 with Provincetown businesses. And 
there’s no telling the financial impact of Sum- 
mer Program, Last summer. Work Center students 



purchased more than 2,400 guest house nights in 
Provincetown. 

AR: Also, since it’s part of the Work Center’s mis- 
sion to reinvigorate the artistic life of the town, 
the more we make it livable on a yearround basis, 
the more attractive it will be for artists and writers 
to relocate here permanently. To go back to the 
campus analogy, by making this a wonderful ex- 
perience for our visitors, we are developing an 
alumni association. 

HOH: That’s right. From were 1 sit, the success of 
Campus Provincetown will be determined by 
whether this becomes more of a yearround com- 
munity. If we can produce one, two, or ten more 
jobs, we’ve succeeded. If we see the fifty percent 
winter unemployment rate decrease significantly, 
we should be very proud. 

AR: We ’re taking baby steps. As 1 go around the 
Cape and talk to people, they are extremely inter- 
ested in what we’re doing. They think this is a 
great idea. They see the town as being very smart. 
Campus Provincetown is a key to our economic 
future. 

Fine Arts Work Center Executive Director Flnnter 
O'Hanian is among the foinuling menthers of the 
Canifnis Provincetown consorthnn. 



Campus Provincetown: 

Cape Cod Community College 
Center for Coastal Studies 
Fine Arts Work Center 

Pilgrim Monument & Provincetown Museum 
Provincetown Art Association and Museum 
Provincetown Business Guild 
Provincetown Chamber of Commerce 
Provincetown International Art Institute 
Provincetown Public Schools 
Provincetown Repertory Company 
Provincetown Theater Company 
Truro Center for the Arts at Castle Hill 

Economic support From: 

Lower Cape Cod Community Development 
Corporation 

Commonwealth of Massachusetts/Massachusetts 
Cultural Council 

Cape Cod Economic Development Council 
Town of Provincetown 
The Provincetown Banner 

Director: Michael Hattersley 



FOR THE BEACH . . . 



Provincetown Dogs 

Susan Baker 

"A great town must have great dogs, and 
Provincetown 's canines arc champions. In this 
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citizens with love and charm, and with her 
own peculiar, perfect genius" — Mark Doty. 

$12.9.S paper 

A Wild, Rank Place 

One Year on Cape Cod 
David Gessner 

"A highly readable, disarmingly self-conscious 
meditation on life and nature, ancestry, and 
mortality , . . There are small surprises on every 
page of this touching, troubling memoir" — 
Boston Globe. Now in paper. $14.95 

Leaving Pico 

Frank X. Caspar 

Set m the Portuguese fishing community of 
Cape Cod, this commg-of-age story explores 
the healing links between new and old, as ado- 
lescent Josie Carvalho learns ahout the world 
from his grandfather. "A simple and satisfying 
first novel" — New York Times Book Review. 

Hardscrabble Books. $24.95 cloth 

Where the Time Goes 

R. D. Skillings 

"Read this hook on a lazy summer afternoon, 
and get a sense of helonging to a piece of the 
secret magic. Through the brief yet powerful 
stories of ordinary, oddball, and everyday 
people who have made and continue to make 
P'town their home. Skillings masterfully 
provides many moments for contemplation on 
the complexities of these simple lives" — 
Provincetown Magazine. 

Hardscrabble Books. $13.95 paper 

The Salt House 

A Summer on the Dunes of Cape Cod 

Cynthia Huntington 

"Like a creature from the sea, this memoir is 
polished, luminous and elemental , . . full of 
rich observations of the stars, birds, sea, vege- 
tation, dunes, of time itself and of the author 
and her mate . . . Those who admire this sort 
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companion" — Publishers Weekly. $22.95 cloth 



At your bookstore, or from 
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PHOTOS: ROBERT NADEAU 



PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 I PAGE 1 7 1 



LAURA V. SCHEEL 



Splendor in Suspense: 
The New Whalers' 

Wharf 

SOME HAVE PRAISED IT as the proverbial 
“Phoenix rising from the ashes.” Others view it 
as an intrusive monstrosity bursting forth from 
the earth. From the cleared rubble of the mas- 
sive fire of Februarv’ 1998, which destroyed the 
original Whalers’ Wharf, a new incarnation has 
arisen. And while fiercely vocal opponents de- 
claim obstructed water views and encroachment 
upon the character of the town, there are just as 
many who hail the new Whalers' Wharf as a 
great boon to Provincetown and its artisans. 

During this wnting, it has been a challenge to 
stay abreast of the controversy that began after 
the new building's construction was more than 
just a bit underway. Ground broke in December 
of 1999, but little outcry was heard until die fomii- 
dable steel skeleton, appearing far larger than its 
beloved predecessor, stretched toward the skies. 
Passersby mourned die uninterrupted water vista 
revealed after the fire; many had hoped die town 
would maintain the site as a park on the sea. 

Despite these hopes, die property proved far too 
valuable and its economic potential too grand to 
keep the space vacant. In the midst of an ongoing 
batde involving unhappy abutters, town officials 
have been accused of inefficiency and developers 
of overzealotrv’. Yet construction progresses against 
a drear\- April backdrop. The structure is admittedly 
intimidating in its naked state, but the owners and 
architects behind die new Whalers' Wharf believe 
that completion v\ill change all this. Once the build- 
ing is finished, diey assure, the grains of negativity 
will dissolve in die face of sheer splendor. 

The original Whalers' Wharf building first 
housed the Provincetown Theater in 1919, and 
remained cherished throughout its various 
transfomiations. Dale Elmer bought die building in 
the early 1970s, creating affordable spaces for 
artisans to do their work and sell dieir goods. Praised 
for his unusually generous nature, Elmer provided 
the average starving artist means for survival amidst 
odierwise exorbitant real estate prices and sparse 
studio space offerings. Tliis town heralds itself as 
the oldest American art colony. Indeed, yet in an 
economic environment that offers no sympathy or 
accommodation for diose just starting out. how can 
the artistic tradition regenerate? 

That notion is not lost on the new owners of 
die site. Paul deRuyter and Bruce McGregor. The 
two consulted extensively with Elmer before they 
purchased the property in May of 1999. “Dale Elmer 
has had a big impact in die community,” deRuyter 
says. “He gave many artists their roots, gave them 



the opportunity to start their own businesses in a 
time when expenses are prohibitive to most. He 
truly did a lot of great things and it is our hope to 
follow in those very same steps.” deRuyter is un- 
abashedly thrilled with the venture and is quick to 
praise the town and the project’s promise. Despite 
the protests, many have seen evidence of benefi- 
cence. Whalers' Wharf could just ride the tide to- 
ward great profit (and it will have to recoup the 
millions of dollars spent on its rebirth), but the lofty 
ambition to offer low-rent havens for first-time, 
small business owners and artists is indeed honor- 
able and, apparendy, a priority. 

With yellow plastic hardhats firmly in place, John 
Sunderland and Ginny Binder, 
project managers from Binder 
Boland & Associates, and 1, 
took a late-March tour. Despite 
the harangue of clanging steel, 
piles of lumber underfoot, 
equipment to circumnavigate, 
and the general mayhem of 
construction, the new Whalers' 

Wharf was not hard to imag- 
ine. The building’s backbone is 
a walkway that extends from 
the street clear out to the 
beach. Not far through the 
arched entrance, the sky ap- 
pears unbroken — the walkway will remain roofless. 
Walking further, a central rotunda emerges, soon 
to be what Sunderland excitedly terms, 
“Provincetown ’s ver^' own Globe Theatre.” Within 
this space, he anticipates, street perfomiers will 
entertain, dieater groups will stage plays, writers 
and poets will read works in progress. 

Erom the inside, the stmcture takes on an en- 
tirely new existence. Graceful and thoughtful in 
design, the building is welcoming, its three levels of 
open balconies revealing corridors of studio spaces 
and retail areas, with plenty of walls for displaying 
artwork. Sunderland, aware of detractors, explains, 
“People see tliis monolithic thing on the outside and 
they just don’t understand the concept. ... This is 
not just a building, it’s going to be an event, a desti- 
nation with the intimacy of a European, medieval 
street. A true public space. Whalers’ Wharf will re- 
tain its sense as a community center with increased 
public access. This is going to be a living place.” 
Oblivious to the mess, Sunderland points to the ro- 
tunda, and describes his vision of long filaments of 
flowers spiraling down from above. 

There have been plenty of challenges in the pro- 
cess of moving the building from blueprints to real- 
ity. The old Whalers’ Wharf was a nightmare of 
building code and septic violations and the new 
building had to diverge considerably from the old 
in order to pass inspection. Time was a major fac- 
tor (construction had to begin within a year of the 
fire if the builders wished to maintain the original 
building’s size). Size is a major issue for the opposi- 
tion, but Sunderland assures that “counting square 
footage, the new building is actually smaller than 
the old.” But it doesn’t looh that way, and that, along 
with the allegation that town officials turned a blind 



eye in favor of expediting the process, is what is ^ 
causing trouble. 

Ginny Binder fervently defends the project. “We 
wanted to prove that you could do an environmen- 
tally responsible and sensitive building without sac- 
rificing good design,” she says. Binder is adamant 
that the design is not only revolutionary, but effi- 
cient and creative, down to the least glamorous 
detail: “'What we’ve done is to put the leaching fields 
right under the building itself. This has taken the : 
septic system off the beach, helping to preserve : 
nearby waters. In effect, it is built on its own waste.” 

The benefits to a struggling artistic community 
are impossible to ignore. The new Whalers’ Wharf 
will be home to two dozen art- 
ists’ and artisans’ studio spaces. 
Streetside on the third floor will 
be the Provincetown Tales Story ; 
Museum, which will focus on lo- ' 
cally inspired legends and feature 
changing exhibits by local artists. . 
Upstairs will be an indoor the- 
ater (hearkening back to the i 
original building’s first use), I 

showing independent films off- ij 

season. And of course there will j j 
be more conventional (and prof- i 1 
itable) businesses, at least I 
twenty-five of them, along with | 
a waterfront restaurant. 

Perhaps the most outward sign of support and 
alliance with the artistic community is the owners’ | 
having commissioned renowned local artist Paul I 
Bowen to create an installation for the facade of j 
the building. Bowen responded with two enormous I 
photographic collages, fourteen feet tall by five feet i 
wide, that will hang in frames over the clapboard T 
on each side of the doorway. The works may sur- 
prise admirers of Bowen’s sculpture, but the sub- 
ject matter is an extension of his current interests 
and recent works, and he credits the commission 
as “a perfect combination of circumstances.” Im- ' 
ages of historical whaling implements blend with 
images from today, including one of a beached J 
minke whale’s grim autopsy. Bowen says it is not 
his intent to glorify or condemn the whaling era. “I 
am more interested in the complexity of things 
rather than their moral implications.” 

By the time of this reading. Whalers’ Wharf 
should be up and running to near full force, and the 
“complexity of things” so far in its advent will likely 
have subsided. Businesses should be established, 
artists ought to be happily at work within their snug 
studios, and perhaps even the merry chants of street 
performers will be resounding amidst crowds in 
the rotunda. As one can never predict the future, 
the story of the new Whalers’ Wharf will be left to 
unfold on its own behalf. 

Laura V. Scheel is a freelance writer am! editor of A- 
Plus, a regional arts and anticjiies f’eriodical She lives 
in Wellfleet. 




ARTIST'S SKETCH OF THE 
ROTUNDA IN ACTION 



PAGE 172 I PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 



BLYTHE FRANK 



Film Festivals 
and Filmmaking 

"On the Edge" 

T he first Provincetown International Film Fes- 
tival exceeded everyone’s expectations. Nearly 
thirty films were screened over a three-day pe- 
riod in June of 1999. Subjects ranged from gay and 
lesbian romance, to holistic veterinary medicine, 
to a Portuguese-language tale set on the island of 
Cape Verde. The Festival also showcased 16mm 
and digital video works such as Pof’, Joel 
Meyerowitz’s documentary of his father in the late 
stages of Alzheimer’s, Viuler Wraps, a portrait of 
artists confronting menstruation, and Love Retiitited, 
a collection of shorts from France that explores 
sexuality in the age of AIDS. Over 1,000 people 
attended the parties, premieres and screenings, 
and all 700 seats sold out for the “Evening with 
John Waters” at Town Hall. Waters, whose films 
have pushed boundaries for close to thirty years, 
received the first annual “Filmmaker On The Edge 
Award.” 

The Festival’s resounding success followed 
years of talk, but it took funding and support to 
finally get the notion off the ground. Local busi- 
ness-owner and Festival founder PJ Layng recalls 



that Town Moderator Roslyn Garfield planted the 
idea in her brain almost four years ago, during a 
tennis game. The initial impetus, she says, was a 
need to drum up business early in the season. 
Layng joined forces with Marianne Lempke and 
Connie White of the Beacon Cinema Group of 
Boston, which hosts the annual International Fes- 
tival of Women’s Cinema at Cambridge’s historic 
Brattle Theatre. Lempke says the Festival’s scope 
grew out of the organizers’ desire to mirror the 
spirit of Provincetown. “We wanted to reflect 
Provincetown’s rich tradition of diversity and com- 
mitment to creativity, which for us means looking 
at films that challenge conventional ideas of what 
a film should be.” 

This year, in addition to dozens of screenings, 
the Festival will host a filmmaking symposium 
entided “On the Edge 2000,” on June 16th at Town 
Hall. The panel will include such producers, writers. 



and directors as Christine Vachon, John Waters, 
Kimberly Pierce, and John Sayles. On the same 
date, the “Lily Award” will be presented to Lily 
Tomlin, honoring her courage and commitment 
to the art of entertainment. An evening with 
Tomlin, filled with cosmic conversation, candor, 
and her unforgettable characters, will follow. 

This year’s “Filmmaker on the Edge” recipient 
will be Christine Vachon, independent film pro- 
ducer and author of Shooting to Kill: How an Inde- 
pendent Producer Blasts Through the Barriers to Make 
Movies That Matter. Vachon studied film in the 
semiotics department at Brown University as an 
undergrad, but did not go to film school. “I know, 
lots of people learn the basics there,” she writes in 
her book. “The problem is that everyone who 
comes out says, ‘I want to be a director.' Some- 
body has to make the coffee.” Vachon learned the 
business while working her way up from the 
thankless (and often unpaid) jobs of gofer and prop 
girl, to assistant editor, location scout, and script 
supervisor. Finally, in 1987, she and two friends 
founded Apparatus Productions to fund and pro- 
duce experimental work. Her company has since 
expanded into what is now known as Killer Films, 
which produces low-budget, risky films such as 
Boys Don't Cry, the true story of a young woman 
who posed as a man. Happiness, a sympathetic 
portrayal of a pedophile. Kids, a disturbing por- 
trayal of urban teenage life, / Shot Andy Warhol, 
the true story of radical feminist Valerie Solanas, 
who shot the famous artist, and Safe, about the 
demise of a suburban housewife who believes she 
is being environmentally poisoned. Vachon’s films 
explore dysfunctionality — in the home, fam- 
ily, community, and the minds of individuals. 
There are no easy answers to questions the 
scripts ask, nor “fixes” to issues the charac- 
ters encounter. Instead, these films confront 
us head-on with the disturbing and unnerv- 
ing aspects of humanity and modem life that 
most of us would prefer to ignore. 

Vachon has found there are no limits to 
what her job might entail — from fine-tuning 
scripts to hiring actors, finding crews, mak- 
ing budgets, stroking egos, raising funds, 
working the film festival circuit, even bailing 
actors out of jail and inviting the entire cast and 
crew from a particular film to sleep in her living 
room. Vachon told me she chooses her projects 
according to three qualities: is the screenplay pro- 
vocative and fresh; will the director be collabora- 
tive; and lastly, is it something that can be sold? 
She is realistic about commercial viability, and says 
in a recent Los Angeles Times interview, “I do get 
tired of those filmmakers who want $8 million for 
their movies but don’t care what the audience 
thinks. Those people should take up modem dance 
to express themselves.” She also asserts that film 
can never be “art for art’s sake” because it is a com- 
mercial artform that is expensive to make and to 
distribute. 

Filmmaking takes money. Whether it's $12,000 
for a “low-low budget film,” or one million for a 
mere “low-budget” film, without financial support. 




A Fearful Epidemic 

REBECCA MOTHERWELL SWANSON 



W hy is it that human beings have an urge to destroy 
the things they do not understand? The Bible con- 
demns homosexuality, but doesn't it commend those 
who seek personal faith? What is gender? Is it some- 
thing chemical, biological? Or, is it conditioned? Is sexual 
attraction intrinsic, or is it taught? And above all else, 
should society’s urge to destroy force us to conceal our 
true identities behind others' fears? 

The real-life tragedy of a young woman, Teena Brandon, 
who called herself Brandon Teena, and dressed, convinc- 
ingly, as a man, harvests these questions. Murdered in 1993 
by two of her homophobic “friends,” Teena has been the 
subject of a 1998 documentary entitled The Brandon Team 
Story and, in 1999, the dramatized film Boys Don't Cry, writ- 
ten by Kimberly Pierce and Andi Bienen, directed by Pierce, 
and produced by, among others, Christine Vachon. 

As Boys Don't Cry opens, we watch Teena, played by 
Hilary Swank, flee her hometown of Lincoln, Nebraska, 
and settle in Falls City, a small town where nobody knows 
her past. In his review of The Brandon Teena Story in the 
New York Times, Stephen Holden described this secluded 
community as “The Land of The Pickup Truck," and adds, 
“Those who live and work here may have heard of gay 
liberation, but they’ve never met an uncloseted gay or 
transgendered person and have no desire to do so.” It is 
here, in this apparent sanctuary, that Teena hopes to 
permanently play the role of Brandon. 

At first, she succeeds. She becomes enamored with Lana, 
played by Chloe Sevigny, and the love is returned. Lana 
seems to know Teena’s “secret,” but for reasons unbe- 
knownst to the viewer, holds back from admitting the full 
truth to herself. Teena has found a makeshift family with 
whom she feels comfortable. But when her sex is suddenly 
revealed, it is here, in this seeming oasis of hope, that Bran- 
don discovers how swifdy things can change. The violence 
of her so-called friends’ reactions encompasses the loath- 
some origins and results of homophobia in society today. 
If you choose to see Boys Don't Cry, chances are you will 
leave the movie theater pondering some serious questions 
about fear, homosexuality, and hatred. It was almost 
irritating that this film failed to provide answers. 
Nevertheless, if it had, the film would have been artificial. 
Boys Don't Cry is not a fairytale, but rather a realistic 
nightmare. Leaving the theater, you may feel as though you 
just awakened from a bad dream, but aren’t dreams how 
human beings struggle with and resolve issues too painful 
for the day? 

The 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard, a gay man beaten 
to death by homophobic roughnecks, reminded us once 
more how pervasive and insidious this prejudice remains. 
Spending most of my life in Greenwich, Connecticut, I was 
exposed to the racism and prejudices that often come along 
with gargantuan wealth. I will never forget that day in first 
grade when a fellow classmate asked me and my friends if 
we had ever seen two people of the same sex kiss. 1 was 
the only one who had. “Was it scary?" one girl asked. 1 
didn’t answer. I had never really sat down and asked my- 
self how I felt about homosexuality. It was just something 
that I accepted. 

I often wonder how I would have turned out had I not 
been exposed to Provincetown at such an early age. Per- 
haps that thought scares me much more than homosexual- 
ity. I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to experience 
Provincetown, unique in its tolerance of both individuality 
and sexuality. I also feel thankful for people such as Christine 
Vachon, and the many makers of this film, who so creatively 
divulge the issues that many of us would rather ignore. 

Rebecca Motherwell Swanson writes for her school 
paper at the Cambridge Rindge and Latin School, 
and for the Provincetown Banner. She has 
summered in Provincetown all of her seventeen years. 




A SURVEY OF PAINTINGS 




PAGE 174 I PROVINCETOWN ARTS 2000 



film remains in the treatment phase. To justify the 
expense, films must mahe money. John Waters said 
of the Provincetown Film Festival, "This is how 
Cannes started out. An off-season event. What 
better reason to visit town?” The Festival’s primary 
goal is to sell tickets, with the additional economic 
incentive of filling guest houses, restaurants, and 
gift shops. The Festival is not competitive and does 
not judge its films. Its organizers intentionally gear 
toward attracting viewers, rather than rewarding 
filmmakers. Sometimes the external pressures of 
festivals can get a filmmaker down. Christine 
Vachon rants in an interview with FEED magazine, 
“1 hate all film festivals pretty much across the 
board. Because they’re a nightmare, because I’m 
usually there with an entourage of actors, the 
director, various family members, hangers-on, 
handlers and 1 spend the whole time organizing 
people from one place to another, making sure 
everyone has tickets to the events they want to be 
at. It's a gigantic cluster-fuck.” In my interview with 
her, Vachon c^ualifies this statement, saying it 
followed one particularly stressful festival when 
she had both Velvet GoUniine and Hitj’iHiiess at 
Cannes. But for the most part, she recognizes that 
festivals build a base that could pluck a film out of 
obscurity and obtain the critical support necessary 
to launch a commercial success. Vachon also says 
she enjoys smaller festivals such as Provincetown ’s, 
where she can just sit back and watch movies all 
day long. 

• 

Watching films is one of the greatest common 
denominators in contemporary society. Festivals in 
particular have a unique aspect that home videos 
and even die local multiplex do not offer. There is 
something performative and communal about en- 
gaging in a film festival as a viewer. Provincetown, 
an independence loving town with a genus loci of 
diversity, tolerance, mobility, experimentation, and 
fearlessness, and comprised of artists, intellectuals, 
perfomiers, writers, travelers, and soul-searchers, 
is an ideal community for a film festival. 

It may also be ideal for the making of films. 
Though Provincetown is not historically a 
filmmaking town, a few films have been made 
here: Norman Mailer's Eotigh Guys Don't Dnnce, 
Wally White’s Lie Down with Dogs, and Jonathan 
Morrill’s Johnny in Monsteriand and The Bride of 
Johnnv in Monsteriand. During the last century, 
avant-garde theater and painting thrived in 
Provincetown, but over several decades, their 
presence has diminished substantially. The fishing 
industry, which once fueled the local economy, has 
dwindled much further. As a result, the economy 
relies on the tourist dollar — and no longer just 
during the summer months. Perhaps filmmaking 
might fill the gap between commercialization and 
the desire (and ability) to maintain an artistic 
community. It’s possible: witness Wilmington, 
North Carolina (where Dawson's Creek is shot), 
which has, in about fifteen years, emerged out of 
nowhere as the third largest filmmaking locale in 
the country. Filmmaking in Provincetown could 
revitalize the economy, give jobs to locals in the arts, 
and fuse the community as an independent entity 
that can mitigate its dependence on the tourist dollar. 



Venues are essential, too. Though at present we 
have only The New Art Cinema, with two screens, 
and only open during high season, places to project ■ 
35mm, 16mm, and digital videos are popping up ^ 
in places like the Mews, the Art Association, and 
Town Hall, and the new Whalers’ Wharf will house i 

I 

a cinema, too. 

Vachon writes in her book that an independent 
film “is a crisis waiting to happen.” 1 learned that 
first-hand this March when Casey Clark and 1 shot 
our short digital film, Off-Season, in Provincetown. 
Some of the challenges we faced included losing 
(and replacing) our lead actor two days before tlie 
start of the shoot, having to switch from 16mm film 
to less expensive digital video in the week before 
the shoot due to an unreliable investor, and losing 
file keys to our fifteen-passenger van while shoot- 
ing a scene in Beech Forest and getting stranded for 
three hours. Apart from die hourly ups and downs, 
we had incredible community support. Our loca- [ 
dons — the Old Colony Tap, MacMillan Pier, Adam’s 
Pharmacy, and a cottage on Tasha Hill — were all 
donated for free and widiout complaint. The Crown | 
and Anchor and the Three Peaks provided housing 
for actors and crew; and die Lobster Pot, Napi’s, 
Spiritus, Joe Coffee, and Georgie Porgie’s donated 
meals and coffee. Friends and family played small 
roles, crewed on set, took still publicity photographs, 
lent cars, generators, clothes, and space heaters. 
When we had everything in the can after a week of 
16-hour days of shooting, Casey and 1 were certain 
diat without the generosity, energy, and limidess 
skills of the community, our film would not have \ 
gotten done. 

After several loans and maxed-out credit cards, 1 1 
1 can say that Off-Season falls safely into Hollywood 
producer Lawrence Gordon’s definition of an inde- 
pendent film — “financed in such a way that it . 
doesn ’t have any distribution deals attached, so you ' 
make it the way you want and then take it to mar- 
ket.” Vachon writes that she no longer works this • 
way, but remembers the exciting times of taking a 
movie to market and watching the bidding war. The 
distinction between big studio films and “low-bud- j 
get” films is blurring, not only in temis of funding { 
but content. Add to this the growing popularity of 1 
digital video, a medium with the potential to sig- 
nificantly impact the market, since lower-cost films 
can now be made by a growing portion of the j 
population. 

Provincetown, in all its glorious subversity, 
suffers the threat of becoming too insular a 
community. The power of film is that it has reach, 
allowing local messages to make their way into 
the greater national and global community, like 
notes in a bottle cast off from shore. The Film 
Festival, which came into being in order to 
augment the tourist season, may ultimately give 
Provincetown more visionary possibilities than its 
organizers could have ever imagined. Grab your 
popcorn, your Raisinets, and let’s go to the movies. 

Blythe Frank is a film student at Coinmhia University, ' 
an indeirendent fihinnaker, and a freelance writer. She 
divides her time between New York and Provincetown. 



i 





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1990 by Michael Klein 
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Provincetown Art Association and Museum exhibition 

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Peter Hutchinson in Retrospective 

Essays by Brian O'Doherty and Ann Wilson Lloyd 
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Cape Museum of Fine Arts exhibition catalogue, 1996 
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Journals of Myron Stout 

Forthcoming 

Edited with an introduction 
by Christopher Busa 



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),\( k I’iiTson is ro])iesfnti’il in i’ro\inceto\Mi In' ALBERT MEROIA GALLERY 



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“The Town Hill; Oct. #6,” Circa 1910. Oil on canvas, 31” x 38” 

In addition to a wide selection of work by Oliver Newberry Chaffee, we 
have a broad inventory of Provincetown and Twentieth Century American 
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THE NEW WHALERS' WHARF 

Recreating the tradition and remaining... 

Uniquely 

Provincetown 



Walk from Commercial Street down 



the Whalers' Walkway to the Sea and 
experience over 40 new shops with 
unique arts & crafts, artists studios, 
cinema, waterfront dining, a unique 
visitor attraction, street entertainment 



and much more! Come visit and 



experience Uniquely 



art by Paul Bowen